Archives - 1994 

  • Natural Born Killers

    2018-04-20 02:53:43

    Written by David Velog and Richard Rutkowski, from a story by Quentin Tarantino, and directed by Oliver Stone, this fevered tale about a couple of love-bird serial killers whose gruesome handiwork transforms them international media celebrities, unfolds with disorientating perversity of a kaleidoscopic acid trip. Well versed in the feeding frenzy politics of a media only too eager to pander to an audience's worst voyeuristic instincts. Stone has stylised the film's ultra-violence with Clockwork Orange intensity, amplifying the non-linear imagery attendant to each atrocity with a bewildering fusion of videotape, colour and black and white photography. As Mickey and Mallory, the doting psychopaths at the centre of this surreal satire, Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis are a nightmare personified; as the tabloid talk-show host orgiastically exploiting their every move, Robert Downey Jr. chews the scenery and some lead in a frenzied, go-for-broke performance. Tommy Lee Jones and Tom Sizemore essay some of the other noteworthy lambs Stone cold-bloodedly sacrifices in the film's hysterical finale. The film wins the Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival,

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  • Bad Girls

    2018-01-01 21:55:38

    This film arrives with quite a chequered history. After shooting for a mere nine days, producers Andre Morgan and Al Ruddy, citing the usual "creative differences" impasse,  unceremoniously fired director Tamra Davis and brought in Jonathan Kaplan to take over the reins. Under his aegis the script, a female-centric Western, was substantially rewritten, substituting most of Davis' alleged more gritty proto-feminist aesthetics with the generic, broad-based genre sensibilities that Young Guns exploited in 1988, only this time utilising the sexual allure of four attractive female leads. Looking like they just stepped out of a cowboy outfitters boutique on their way to a magazine photo shoot, Madeleine Stowe, Andie McDowell, Mary Stuart Masterton and Drew Barrymore play four of the most photogenic Wild West prostitutes this side of a dude ranch in Montana. Their haute couture adventure begins with a murder and a jail break then quickly segues to a double-cross bank robbery, a cross-country pursuit and finally a time-honored, black-hat-villian showdown where the quartet seals its new-found feminist leanings with a fancy bit of gun-play. Written by Ken Friedmand and Yolande Finch, Bad Girls is a contrived, anachronistic exercise in formula film-making without the formula. One can only speculate how quickly the real West could have been won had designer-wearing, hair-style fashionistas like these were every bordello's chief attraction. Laudable as it may have been for the four stars to ride out the storm and stick around, the resulting film is undeserving of their loyalty. Had the ladies bothered to appraise themselves of the new script's serious shortcomings, they would have been perfectly within their rights to reject it, cut their losses, and throw some of their characters' girl-power weight behind their original director's vision. It surely couldn't have been any worse than this.  

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  • Backbeat

    2017-12-25 20:12:20

    Despite its obvious modest budget, this keenly analytical and wide-ranging bio-pic, written by Michael Thomas, Stephen Ward and director Iain Softley, ostensibly about The Beatles' pre-fame gigging days in Hamburg, circa 1960, could easily be subtitled The Stuart Sutcliffe Story. A talented painter but a mediocre musician, it is by virtue of his life-long association with John Lennon and his brief stint as a bass player with the soon-to-be legendary group that Sutcliffe will always be remembered as the so-called fifth Beatle. It was during the boys' Hamburg sojourn that Sutcliffe announced his intention to leave the band to pursue both his studies and burgeoning romance with a young photographer named Astrid Kirchherr. Though a hurt and, some would say, jealous Lennon characterised his close friend's resignation (and infatuation with Kirchherr) as an unforgiveable betrayal of their long friendship, fate provided a substantially more tragic coda. Reinforced by an evocative soundtrack, a palpable sense of place and time and a solid performance from Lennon-lookalike Ian Hart (who first played the famous Beatle in The Hours and Times in 1991), Backbeat adds a largely forgotten but fascinating addendum to the well-documented history of a cultural phenomenon. 

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  • And The Band Played On

    2017-12-25 18:15:41

    In 1983, Randy Shilts, a journalist at The San Francisco Chronicle, became the first full-time reporter assigned to cover the AIDS epidemic. The four years he spent on the investigative trail culminated with the publication of And The Band Played On, an exhaustive, complex, multi-arc account of a handful of dedicated researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who, with little funding, equipment or manpower, fought political indifference, prejudice and ignorance in an effort to reign in a medical catastrophe that would soon change the face of the world. Made by HBO for American television but released theatrically in key overseas markets, this much-delayed film adaptation (written by Arnold Shulman) of Shilts' uncompromising, controversial best-seller methodically documents the bureaucratic and moral obstacles that needed to be scaled or circumvented before the world could be alerted to the very real peril the so-called "gay virus" posed. Matthew Modine toplines as Dr. Don Francis, the epidemiologist who tracks the at first mysterious virus from its incubation in Africa in 1976 to its beachhead in the US some five years later. Alan Alda, Phil Collins, Richard Gere, Anjelica Houston, Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin are just some of the supporting stars who help Modine drive this impassioned, revelatory call-to-arms.    

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  • Heavenly Creatures

    2017-12-10 01:14:40

    On June 22, 1954 in a picturesque park in Christchurch New Zealand, two 14-year-old schoolgirls, Juliet Hulme and Pauline Reiper, took turns with a house brick to bludgeon to death Pauline's mother, Honora. Written and directed by Peter Jackson, with imput from Frances Walsh, Heavenly Creatures strives to put the 40-year-old "crime that shocked a nation" into some sort of contemporary perspective by suggesting that the intense psychological and social forces which shaped the girls' obsessive and intense, fantasy-driven friendship distanced them so effectively from the boundaries of so-called normal behaviour that they considered their brutal act of violence to be not only an extreme act of rebellion but also a perverse confirmation of their mutual bonding. Anyone familiar with newcomer Jackson's aptly titled debut feature Bad Taste or his more recent Braindead will be more than a little surprised by the artistic quantum leap he has taken with this impressive film. And while some of the symbolism might smack more of artifice than art, there is an exhilarating assurance to Jackson's wide-screen compositions and both Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey are excellent as the Mario Lanza aficionados who prove to be anything but heavenly.

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  • In The Name Of The Father

    2017-11-21 00:03:25

    When a callow, knockabout young Irishman named Gerry Conlon arrived in London in the autumn of 1974, nothing could have prepared him for the nightmare that was about to engulf him. By December he, his father and two friends were in police custody charged with the IRA bombing of two pubs in the nearby town of Guildford. Isolated, brutally interrogated and finally coerced into signing false confessions, the so-called Guildford Four, as they came to be known, were summarily sentenced to life imprisonment. Despite unceasing political activism to review the case, it was to be almost 15 years before Conlon's determined legal counsel, Gareth Pierce, stumbled upon the crucial, withheld piece of evidence that compelled the authorities to reopen the case and subsequently overturn the convictions. Working from Conlon's autobiographical novel, Proved Innocent, the award-winning My Left Foot team of director Jim Sheridan and star Danial Day-Lewis deftly juxtaposes the emotional density of a father-son relationship against the political degeneracy of a Briitish judicial system seemingly less concerned with human life than the terrorists it is hunting. Emma Thompson and Pete Postlewaite help anchor Day-Lewis' extraordinary performance. A potent, plangent estimation of the mechanics of a state sanctioned miscarriage of justice. 

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  • The Madness of King George

    2016-09-23 02:17:39

    In 1788, when he was almost thirty years into his reign, England's King George III, much to the consternation of his wife and immediate family, suddenly lapsed into what was to become almost a year-long period of insanity. Such was the seriousness of his ongoing infirmness that the day to day affairs of the state, as administered by the monarchy, inevitably became seriously compromised.

    As news of the king's alleged madness spread, his duplicitous son, the Prince of Wales, sought to take advantage of the escalating constitutional crisis by exhorting parliament to issue a proclamation declaring his father unfit to rule and installing him as Regent. He almost succeeded. That the king was able to regain a measure of his sanity and thwart his son's perfidious plan was due largely to the determined intervention of his loyal and devoted wife Charlotte and the unorthodox course of therapy meted out by a self-styled psycho-therapist named Dr. Willis.

    Writer Alan Bennet first premiered this turbulant episode from the king's life as a play at the Royal National Theatre in 1991. Like that feted stage production, the centrepiece of director Nicholas Hytner's sumptuous, period perfect screen adaptation is once again the remarkable Nigel Hawthorne. Though he is somewhat older than King George was at the time of his so-called madness, Hawthorne, by virtue of his pivotal role, embraces the heart and soul of the character (and by turn the film) in a blistering career-high tour-de-force that deservedly earned him an Oscar nomination. Helen Mirren, Ian Holm, Rupert Everett and Rupert Graves are perfect in key supporting roles. With wit and intelligence to spare, historical dramas don't come much better than this one. Highly recommended.  

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  • The Getaway

    2016-08-23 02:07:38

    Roger Donaldson's The Getaway is that rare example of a remake that actually manages to steal a lot of the revered original's thunder. No mean feat given the fact that said original from 1972 featured superstar of the day Steve McQueen in front of the camera and the estimable Sam Peckinpah behind it. But the proof is right there in the pudding. With original writer Walter Hill (who culled the story from a Jim Thompson novel) and original producer David Foster at his side, Donaldson, wisely hewing to the original's sound narrative beats, has fashioned a first rate, text-book example of a lean, mean and muscular contemporary crime thriller. Exuding some of McQueen's coiled charisma, Alec Baldwin is well cast as the pragmatic, short-fused, newly-paroled Doc McCoy who, along with his wife Carol (Kim Basinger) and a suitcase full of stolen money, litters his escape route to Mexico with enough shell casings and blood-soaked corpses to make Peckinpah - were he still around -  sigh with approval. Michael Madsen, James Woods and David Morse are suitably lethal as just some of the furies hot on Doc and Carol's trail. Highly recommended.

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  • Clear and Present Danger

    2016-07-21 00:38:21

    Though Russia's post WWII communist enslavement of Eastern Europe subjected millions of people to a life of unremitting hardship, the subsequent 40 year old Russian-US Cold War, with its well-documented acts of espionage, double cross and military brinkmanship, could not have provided spy novelists like John Le Carre, Graeme Greene and Tom Clancy with a more perfect milieu upon which to graft their specialised brand of political intrigue, skullduggery and disillusionment. The fall of the Berlin Wall, however, has forced these thriller writers to insert their heroes (or anti-heroes) into other more contemporary theatres of conflict.

    Without missing a beat, Tom Clancy has opted to anoint the evil Columbian drug lord as the next all-purpose international bogeyman. In the third of Clancy's best sellers to get the big screen treatment, CIA super spook Jack Ryan barely has time to organise his travel insurance before he is whisked off to the South American jungle to engage in some high-calibre eye-balling with a powerful drug cartel kingpin who is suspected of having sanctioned the murder of the president's closest friend and his family. Paring down Clancy's 700 page door stopper, writers Donald Stewart, Steve Zaillian and John Milius have constructed a taut genre exercise which director Phillip Noyce (who managed to mangle Patriot Games, his previous Clancy adaptation) skillfully embroiders for maximum thrills and suspense. Harrison Ford (the thinking man's action hero) is once again a picture of self-effacing recititude as Company man Ryan. Co-starring Willem Dafoe and Anne Archer.  

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  • Schindler's List

    2016-07-10 02:30:02

    In late 1939, with Poland firmly under German occupation, Oskar Schindler, a former German intelligence officer turned opportunistic war profiteer, aquired an enamelware factory in Krakow. Staffed by cost-effective, cheap labour drawn from the local Jewish community, the factory's subsequent prosperity quickly placed Schindler in good standing with the local German command. But, unbeknowst to his newly aquired friends in high places, anti-semitism was not a part of Schindler's psychological makeup; as far as he was concerned (as least during the first few years) he saw his Jewish workers as simply the largely anonymous low maintenance cogs that kept his machines humming. The fact that he strived to ensure their safety by bribing the local Nazi officials with expensive and extravagant gifts had everything to do with his desire to maintain optimum production output rather than any nascent stirrings of an altruistic nature. Things changed dramatically in 1943 with the arrival of the infamous Amon Goeth, a brutal SS commander assigned by Berlin to overseer the construction of the Krakow-Plaszow concentration camp and the immediate liquidation of the local Jewish ghetto. The bloody, barbaric pogrom unleashed by Goeth profoundly piqued Schindler's moral compass making it impossible for him to keep turning a blind eye. With the  help of Itzhak Stern, the loyal, unassuming Jewish official whose deft managerial ministrations played a significant part in maintaining the factory's premises as an ostensible  haven for a thousand Jewish men and women, Schindler set about compiling the eponymous list of people that he hoped to save from Goeth's gas chambers.   

    Twelve years after he first optioned Australian author Thomas Keneally's award-winning novel Schindler's Ark, Steven Spielberg has fashioned the definitive Holocaust epic. Clocking in at a surprisingly brisk 195 minutes, this black and white historical and biographical paen to the uncommon courage of one remarkable man evinces the brutally poetic and haunting power of a wartime newsreel. In masterfull strokes, Steve Zaillian's screenplay deftly maps the dimensions of the horror and personal danger that confronted Schindler when his conscience began to override his monetary instincts. A well-cast Liam Neeson gives the performance of his career as the enigmatic Schindler, while little know British Shakespearian actor Ralph Fiennes is a rivetting study in evil personified as Amon Goeth, the camp's sadistic commandant. Ben Kingsley rounds out the acting trifecta as the taciturn accountant/administrator who becomes a key player in Schindler's rescue mission. Simply superb.   

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