Wednesday, 28 September 2016

What's new in Odeon's this week : Thursday 29th September 2016.

Antoine Fuqua's 'The Magnificent Seven' is released this week, but how many of us are familiar with the how far back the roots of this story goes. Japanese Director, Screenwriter, Producer and Editor Akira Kurosawa is regarded an one of the most influential and important film-makers in the history of cinema. During his career he Directed thirty films over 57 years of his working life, and one the most noted of those is 'The Seven Samurai' from 1954, starring Toshiro Mifune as one of the seven samurai, Kikuchiyo. Kurosawa Directed, Co-Wrote, and Edited the film set in a Japan of 1586 during a time of great political upheaval and unrest and tells the story of seven samurai recruited by a village elder to defend their village from marauding bandits intent on stealing their valuable crops following the years harvest. The villagers are meek and mild and do not have the smarts or the wherewithal to defend themselves and have been ground down after repeated attacks, and the prospect of another. Ultimately the villagers rise to the challenge and aid the seven samurai, who defeat the thieving bandits, but at a cost of four lives out of the seven. The film was highly acclaimed and went on to win five awards and eight nominations including two Academy Award nods, three BAFTA nods and various others from around the festival circuit. The film took a year to shoot on specially constructed authentic village sets, and its unedited running time stretches to 207 minutes. The film has been much copied, referenced, reworked and reimagined over the years and still stands on many 'Greatest' and 'Best' films of all time lists.

'The Seven Samurai' was the inspiration for the John Sturges Old West version of the film released in 1960 as 'The Magnificent Seven' with a setting down Mexico way. Here we see a group of oppressed villagers who suffer periodical rampaging attacks and theft of food and supplies at the hands of local bandit Calvera (Eli Wallach) and his henchmen. Seeking help they encounter Chris Adams (Yul Bryner) - a veteran gunslinger, who reluctantly agrees to help their cause. En route back to the Mexican village Chris recruits six others, consisting of Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter and Horst Buchholz, who with the help of the villagers overcome Calvera and his bandits, but at a cost of four lives out of the seven. The film took out one award win and scored six other nominations including an Academy Award nomination for Best Musical Score by Elmer Bernstein for that iconic theme tune. The film spawned three sequels - 'The Return of the Seven' in 1966, 'Guns of the Magnificent Seven' in 1969, and 'The Magnificent Seven Ride' in 1972, and has influenced many other films too.

And so to the four new movies coming your way this week, kicking off with a gunslinging Western that is a remake of a early '60's classic that was in itself a remake of a mid-'50's classic. Then we have a fantasy adventure offering from the master of the genre about a young lad, a headmistress of a very special school, and a strange set of kids all with peculiar gifts. These are followed up by a female perspective on the inner workings of Wall Street in this financial drama that sees a talented investment banker go head to head in a male dominated world; before wrapping up with a documentary on autism and the power of the movies that saved this one young lad by teaching him valuable lessons in life.

As always, be reminded to share your thoughts and musings when you have seen your film of choice in the coming week, by leaving your Comment below this or any other Post. We'd love to hear from you and all contributions are welcomed. In the meantime, enjoy your film.

'THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN' (Rated M) - in 1954 Akira Kurosawa Directed, Co-Wrote and Edited a Japanese historical drama adventure epic titled 'The Seven Samurai' set in 1586 during the Warring States Period of Japan. Telling the story of seven Ronin hired to defend a village of farmers from rogue bandits intent on stealing their valuable crops following harvest, the film went onto to be critically lauded and has appeared on numerous Greatest Films Lists ever since, and has been highly influential and often remade and reworked. In 1960 John Sturges Directed and Produced 'The Magnificent Seven' based on that Kurosawa story, but set his film in the Old West in Mexico where a band of seven gunslingers are hired to defend a village from a group of marauding bandits. Now fifty-six years later Antoine Fuqua has remade 'The Magnificent Seven' for a whole new audience likely to be unfamiliar with Kurosawa's inspirational film, or the Sturges Americanised version upon which this 2016 offering is based. Made for US$108M the film premiered at TIFF earlier this month, was the closing film at the Venice Film Festival and was released Stateside last week.

The story here has changed little in this Fuqua rendition. This time however, the action takes place not in Mexico but in some remote mining town three days ride from Sacramento, called Rose Creek. Here the simple townsfolk are besieged by a local heavy handed, ruthless and uncaring industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) intent on mining the area for gold and taking over the Rose Creek land by all and any force necessary. In an attack on the townsfolk by Bogue and his henchmen, the husband of Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) is killed and so eventually she enlists the support of Sam Chisholm (Denzel Washington) when he learns that Bogue is at the centre of their plight. Chisholm sets about recruiting a small group of guns for hire to confront and overcome Bogue, assist Cullen and do the right thing by the people of Rose Creek. Those six recruits are Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Martin Sensmeier, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Byung-hun Lee who all have a particular set of skills and are especially adept at wiping out a marauding horde of gun toting bad dudes. You can be sure there'll be a high body count and lots of stylised action and violence, but will it live up to its 1960 inspiration, or its 1954 source?

'MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN' (Rated M) - this dark fantasy adventure film is based on the 2011 book of the same name by Ransom Riggs, is adapted for the screen by Jane Goldman, Directed by Tim Burton and consists of an all star cast that includes Eva Green, Judi Dench, Terence Stamp, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris O'Dowd, Asa Butterfield, and Rupert Everett.  The story surrounds mid-teenage Jacob Portman (Butterfield) who after a tragedy at home is forced to travel to a mysterious island to determine exactly what happened, and here he comes across Miss Peregrine (Green) and her home for peculiar children. Here he learns that the fairytales he was told in his younger days may have more truth in them than he thought, and after a horrifying experience Jacob must make a life changing decision to protect those closest to him and from the no good Mr. Barron (Jackson) - the leader of The Wights - undead human creatures who hunt and kill the peculiar children using disguises and enhanced physical abilities. All of Tim Burton's touchstones contained herein, which is sure to please his followers.

'EQUITY' (Rated M) - it's good to see women getting some movie exposure to the dealings of inner Wall Street in this financial thriller Directed by Meera Menon and out on limited release despite the favourable Reviews it has so far garnered since its general release in the US at the end of July. Here we see senior investment banker Naomi Bishop (Anna Gunn) working in a very male dominated domain and needing to overcome a previous slur on her reputation and restore some credibility amongst the firm she works for and her colleagues. She elects to take on a new Tech IPO but quickly comes up against obstacles from colleagues and her Client that might just unhinge the future of the venture. Amongst this she has to contend with a double-dealing boyfriend, a Federal investment law prosecutor, and a betrayal by a trusted friend that might just unravel everything for her. James Purefoy also stars with Alysia Reiner and Sarah Megan Thomas who also Co-Wrote and Co-Produced.

'LIFE, ANIMATED' (Rated PG) - this documentary has been around the festival circuit and has collected a number of award wins and nominations in that time, based on the book by Ron Suskind about his autistic son Owen, and Directed with a deft touch by Roger Ross Williams. It tells the story of how young Owen at aged just three developed autism. As Owen retreated within himself and stopped communicating his parents became increasingly concerned, almost losing all hope, as to how they could interact with their dear son in a way that had meaning. Ultimately that way manifested itself through animated films, and especially those from Disney which offered Owen a conduit to make sense of the world and at the same time create his own. The film traces Owen's growth from young child to teenager to the cusp of adulthood as he strives for independence learned from key teachings from the likes of 'The Lion King', 'Aladdin' and 'The Little Mermaid' that he was able to adapt to the world around him. An uplifting coming of age story that offers proof positive of the magic of cinema, the power of stories, and how hope can overcome adversity.

Four films this week to tempt you out to your local multiplex or independent picture house for two hours of great entertainment for just $20. You know it makes sense to do so. I'll see you therefore at the Odeon in the week ahead.

-Steve, at Odeon Online-

Monday, 26 September 2016

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN : Sunday 25th September 2016.

I caught an advance screening of Antione Fuqua's Directed 'THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN' at my local multiplex on Sunday evening four days before its official Australian release date. The inspiration for this film and its Old West predecessor from 1960 came from the 1954 Akira Kurosawa Directed, Co-Written and Edited Japanese historical drama adventure epic titled 'The Seven Samurai' set in 1586 during the Warring States Period of Japan. Telling the story of seven Ronin hired to defend a village of farmers from rogue bandits intent on stealing their valuable crops following harvest, the film went onto to be critically lauded and has appeared on numerous Greatest Films Lists ever since, and has been highly influential and often remade and reworked. In 1960 John Sturges Directed and Produced 'The Magnificent Seven' based on that Kurosawa story, but set his film in the Old West in Mexico where a band of seven gunslingers are hired to defend a village from a group of marauding bandits. Now fifty-six years later Fuqua has remade 'The Magnificent Seven' for a whole new audience likely to be unfamiliar with Kurosawa's inspirational film, or the Sturges Americanised version upon which this 2016 offering is based. Made for US$108M the film premiered at TIFF earlier this month, was the closing film at the Venice Film Festival and was released Stateside last week.

The story here has changed little in this Fuqua rendition. This time however, the action takes place not in Mexico but in some remote mining town three days ride from Sacramento, called Rose Creek. Here the simple townsfolk are besieged by a local heavy handed, ruthless and uncaring industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) intent on mining the area for gold and taking over the Rose Creek land by all and any force necessary. In an attack on the townsfolk by Bogue and his henchmen after breaking into a meeting held in the town church, the husband of Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) is killed together with various other innocent townsfolk just minding their own business and wanting a quiet life. Bogue very generously and graciously offer each family $20 for their house and land package, and if they refuse, he'll be back in two weeks to take it anyway!

Emma Cullen rides out with her good friend Teddy Q (Luke Grimes) to the nearest town to find some support to help defend Rose Creek from Bogue's pending return. There by chance they come across Sam Chisholm (Fuqua's go to man, Denzel Washington, dressed all in black just as Yul Bryner's character, Chris Adams, in the 1960 film version of the same film), a grizzled war weary bounty hunter who initially refuses Cullen's request, but relents when he learns that it is Bogue creating such a stink.

And so Chisholm, Cullen and Q head back for Rose Creek, and along the way recruit six other guns for hire, all with a shady past, but each in possession of a particular set of skills that might just serve them well for fighting a small army of Bogue's men. First to join the throng is poker gambling whiskey swilling cigar chewing gunslinger Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt). They in turn meet up with ex-Confederate sharpshooter soldier with 23 confirmed kills Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) and his sidekick the Asian knife wielding assassin Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee). They happen across skilled trapper and a God-Fearing bear of a man Jack Horne (Vincent D'Onofrio) and then Mexican on-the-run outlaw with nothing to lose Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), before joining up with native American-Indian and ostracised Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier).

Later the seven ride into Rose Creek only to be greeted by a posse of Bogue's men headed up by his #1 standover enforcer guy McCann (Cam Cigandet). There's a standoff and some resultant gun play in which all of Bogue's men are killed, leaving McCann and the local Sheriff who is on the take from Bogue, still alive but ordered to ride out and tell Bogue to return in person to do his own dirty work. In the meantime, the seven conclude that they have about a week in which to ready the town, arm themselves, train the townsfolk how to shoot to kill, and prepare themselves before Bogue comes riding into town with his small army.

Over the course of the next week plans are hatched, preparations are made, and the good people of Rose Creek ready themselves for the imminent onslaught. Ditches are dug, explosives laid, traps set, and cover made all in an attempt to give them their best chance against Bogue. At this point Robicheaux gets cold feet as he is hiding some inner Demons about his days of killing on the battlefield, and bids Chisholm farewell under cover of night, saying that his fighting days are behind him. The seven are now down to six, but Cullen steps up to the cause.

The next morning at dawn, Bogue and his army of two hundred or so hired soldiers ride over the hill overlooking Rose Creek. Despite their laid traps, explosive charges, element of surprise and best efforts, there are severe casualties on all sides. When Bogue looks as though his army has been overcome, he rolls out a Gattling Gun and systematically tears the town to shreds with a full magazine of bullets and then another, killing more townsfolk and his own men in the process. Taking a last stand Faraday mounts his horse and rides out to where the Gattling Gun is positioned and with a stick of dynamite sacrifices himself to destroy the gun and the remainder of Bogue's men. In the meantime, Robicheaux who returned warning Chisholm about the Gattling Gun, Rocks and Horne have also been killed in the attack.

Bogue and his two remaining henchmen make for the town to finally mop up. Two are quickly dispensed by Chisholm, leaving Bogue to face off against Chisholm outside the burnt out remains of the towns Church. Chisholm shoots Bogue in the hand and then the leg, and limping into the Church seeking sanctuary and last minute forgiveness, Chisholm recounts to Bogue that he and his men raped and murdered his mother and sisters a few years back, and now it's pay back time. In the process Bogue reaches for a small pistol secreted away in his boot, but not before Cullen shoots Bogue dead from the door of the Church, saving Chisholm. In the closing scene Chisholm, Red Harvest and Vasquez ride out of town passing the four crosses marking the burial sites of their fallen colleagues, who have been hailed as legends by Cullen and the towns people.

In summary there is little new to see here. The plot is the same as for the films predecessors except that it has been updated for a new audience raised on stylised violence, big body counts, fast gun play and political correctness. The seven consist of a black dude, an Asian dude, a Mexican dude, a native American Indian dude, a God-Fearing bible bashing dude, a hard drinking and smoking gambling dude, and a dude fighting his inner Demons who all come to the rescue of a damsel in distress - all demographics are covered here. And all the Western cliches are there too - close ups of squinted eyes in the sun, cigar chewing bad guys, hands poised menacingly over holstered guns, the saloon scene where a tall dark stranger enters, bad guys getting shot off rooftops, the local undertaker doing great business with his pine boxes lined up outside his shop in readiness for the next stiff . . . it's all there, and then some! On the one hand it is good to see the Western genre getting some mileage but how about something fresh and original rather than simply dusting off a classic and rehashing it again for the sake of a new audience. The film has so far recouped US$42M and it is entertaining enough but predictable and we've seen it all before, and better!

-Steve, at Odeon Online-

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Birthday's to share this week : 25th September-1st October 2016

Do you celebrate your Birthday this week?

Naomi Watts does on 28th September - check out my tribute to this Birthday Girl turning 48, at the end of this feature.

Do you also share your birthday with a well known, highly regarded & famous Actor or Actress; share your special day with a Director, Producer, Writer, Cinematographer, Singer/Songwriter or Composer of repute; or share an interest in whoever might notch up another year in the coming seven days? Then, look no further! Whilst there will be too many to mention in this small but not insignificant and beautifully written and presented Blog, here are the more notable and noteworthy icons of the big screen, and the small screen, that you will recognise, and that you might just share your birthday with in the week ahead. If so, Happy Birthday to you from Odeon Online!

Sunday 25th September
  • Heather Locklear - Born 1961, turns 55 - Actress | Producer
  • Catherine Zeta-Jones - Born 1969, turns 47 - Actress | Singer
  • Michael Douglas - Born 1944, turns 72 - Actor | Producer
  • Pedro Almodovar - Born 1949, turns 67 - Director | Producer | Writer | Singer | Songwriter
  • Mark Hamill - Born 1951, turns 65 - Actor | Producer | Singer
  • Michael Madsen - Born 1958, turns 58 - Actor | Producer | Writer
  • Jason Flemyng - Born 1966, turns 50 - Actor | Producer | Director
  • Will Smith - Born 1968, turns 48 - Actor | Producer | Writer | Singer | Songwriter  
Monday 26th September
  • Jim Caviezel - Born 1968, turns 48 - Actor
  • Linda Hamilton - Born 1956, turns 60 - Actress
  • Olivia Newton-John - Born 1948, turns 68 - Singer | Songwriter | Actress  
Tuesday 27th September
  • Gwyneth Paltrow - Born 1972, turns 44 - Actress | Producer | Singer
  • Denis Lawson - Born 1947, turns 69 - Actor | Writer | Director
  • Meat Loaf (aka Marvin or Michael Lee Aday)- Born 1947, turns 69 - Singer | Actor | Producer  
Wednesday 28th September
  • Brigitte Bardot - Born 1934, turns 82 - Actress | Singer
  • Mira Sorvino - Born 1967, turns 49 - Actress | Producer
  • Naomi Watts - Born 1968, turns 48 - Actress | Producer
  • Hilary Duff - Born 1987, turns 29 - Actress | Producer | Singer | Songwriter  
Thursday 29th September
  • Ian McShane - Born 1942, turns 74 - Actor | Producer
  • Luke Goss - Born 1968, turns 48 - Actor | Writer | Producer | Director | Singer | Songwriter
  • Nicolas Winding Refn - Born 1970, turns 46 - Director | Producer | Writer  
Friday 30th September
  • Ezra Miller - Born 1992, turns 24 - Actor
  • Eric Stoltz - Born 1961, turns 55 - Actor | Producer | Director 
  • Ian Ogilvy - Born 1943, turns 73 - Actor
  • Angie Dickinson - Born 1931, turns 85 - Actress
  • Victoria Tennant - Born 1950, turns 66 - Actress | Producer
  • Fran Drescher - Born 1957, turns 59 - Actress | Writer | Producer | Director
  • Monica Bellucci - Born 1964, turns 52 - Actress
  • Marion Cotillard - Born 1975, turns 41 - Actress | Singer  
Saturday 1st October
  • Brie Larson - Born 1989, turns 27 - Actress | Writer | Producer | Director
  • Julie Andrews - Born 1935, turns 81 - Actress | Producer | Singer
  • Randy Quaid - Born 1950, turns 66 - Actor | Producer
  • Zach Galifianakis - Born 1969, turns 47 - Actor | Producer | Writer
  • Tom Hooper - Born 1972, turns 44 - Director | Producer | Writer  
Naomi Ellen Watts was born in Shoreham, Kent, England to mother Myfanwy Roberts - a dealer in antiques and latterly a costume/set designer for film and television, and father Peter Watts who died at age 30 of an apparent heroin overdose. He was a sound engineer and road manager for British progressive rock band Pink Floyd. Her parents divorced when the young Watts was just four years of age, and within three years her father was dead. The family, including older brother Ben then moved to North Wales where she attended Ysgol Gyfun Llangefni. Three or so years later her mother remarried and the family moved to Suffolk, in East Anglia where she attended the Thomas Mills High School. In 1980 she saw the hit song and dance film 'Fame' and seeing her mother perform live on stage cemented a career as an Actress in Naomi's mind. At age fourteen the family relocated to Sydney, Australia where mother Myfanwy established a career in the film and television business. Taking acting lessons and attending auditions she met up, and became good friends with young Nicole Kidman. In Sydney she attended Mosman High School and then North Sydney Girls High School, but failing to graduate she worked sundry jobs to pay her way. At eighteen she had a brief time with a modelling agency which proved unsuccessful. She then took part in a drama workshop by chance invitation, which reignited her interest in acting.

Watts secured her screen debut in the 1986 Australian film 'For Love Alone' Directed by Stephen Wallace and starring Sam Neill, Hugo Weaving and Hugh Keays-Byrne. After a period of absence her next gig was on the long running Australian comedy series 'Hey Dad' in 1990, and then five episodes of the six part mini-series 'The Brides of Christ' in 1991. That same year was John Duigan's 'Flirting' with Noah Taylor, Nicole Kidman and Thandie Newton in this sequel to the 1987 'The Year My Voice Broke' and was critically acclaimed. She followed this up with nineteen episodes on the Australian weekday soap opera 'Home and Away' in 1991 as the handicapped character Julie Gibson. She then took a 'gap year' and travelled to the USA and through Nicole Kidman's network sought to secure more acting work.

This led to small roles in the likes of Joe Dante's 'Matinee' with John Goodman in 1993 and then a return to Australia for three in a row with 'Wide Sargasso Sea' for John Duigan again, 'The Custodian' with Hugo Weaving and Anthony LaPaglia, and 'Gross Misconduct' with Jimmy Smits. Returning to the US Watts struggled to gain any traction with her acting work and became increasingly frustrated by the US film and television making machine. Encouraged to stick with it by good friend Nicole Kidman, she won a support role in 'Tank Girl' with Lori Petty, Ice-T and Malcolm McDowell.

The rest of the 90's saw small parts in feature length and made for television movies including 'Persons Unknown', 'Under the Lighthouse Dancing', 'Dangerous Beauty', 'and 'Strange Planet'. There was also 'Sleepwalkers' - a short-lived nine episode SciFi mystery drama series with Bruce Greenwood, and then perhaps her breakout role in 1999's David Lynch Directed 'Mulholland Drive' with Justin Theroux. Originally intended as a made for television film pilot for an extended TV series, it was never picked up by the networks. When it wasn't, Lynch completed the deliberately open ended pilot with a conclusion which he filmed in late 2000 and turned that into a feature length film released in 2001 to critical acclaim, picking up 46 award wins and another 57 nominations - many for Lynch's Directing, but also numerous for Watt's performance.

The American English language remake of the Japanese horror 'Ringu' with 2002's 'The Ring' receive further critical and commercial success with Watts in the lead role as investigative journalist Rachel Keller. Watts reprised her role in the 2005 follow up 'The Ring Two', but not the 2016 third film in the franchise 'Rings' still yet to be released but due before the end  of the year. The Australian bio-pic 'Ned Kelly' for Director Gregor Jordan with Heath Ledger in the title role alongside Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush and Joel Edgerton came in 2003, as did 'La Divorce', and the highly praised '21 Grams' for Alejandro G. Inarritu with Sean Penn and Benicio del Toro picking up 29 award wins and 73 nominations including an Oscar nod for Best Actress in a Leading Role for Watts.

'We Don't Live Here Anymore' with Mark Ruffalo, 'The Assassination of Richard Nixon' with Sean Penn, 'I Heart Huckabees' with Dustin Hoffman, 'Ellie Parker', 'Stay' with Ewan McGregor, and Peter Jackson's 'King Kong' remake with Adrien Brody and Jack Black in 2005 saw Watts playing the role of Ann Darrow made famous by Fay Wray in the 1933 version of the film. Jackson's film was another critical and commercial success story making US$550M from a US$207M budget and earning 45 award wins and another 92 nominations. For the balance of the decade highlights were David Cronenberg's 'Eastern Promises' with Viggo Mortensen, 'Funny Games' with Tim Roth, and 'The International' with Clive Owen.

The new decade kicked off in 2010 with Woody Allen's 'You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger', then Doug Liman's 'Fair Game' with Sean Penn again, Jim Sheridan's 'Dream Home' with Daniel Craig, Clint Eastwood's 'J. Edgar' with Leonardo DiCaprio, 'The Impossible' with Ewan McGregor again, 'Diana' as Princess Diana Spencer, and then Alejandro G. Inarritu's 'Birdman, or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance' with Michael Keaton which garnered 186 award wins and another 265 award nominations. 'St. Vincent' followed in 2014 with 'While We're Young' with Ben Stiller, 'The Sea of Trees' with Matthew McConaughey, 'About Ray' and 'Demolition' with Jake Gyllenhaal bringing us up to date, save for her reprised role as Evelyn in 'Insurgent', 'Allegiant' and the 2017 release of 'Ascendant' - the final film in the 'Divergent' series.

Next up is 'The Bleeder' with Liev Schreiber, 'Shut In' due later this year, 'The Glass Castle' with Brie Larson currently filming, 'The Book of Henry' now completed filming, new television series 'Gypsy' with Billy Crudup, and the series return of the highly acclaimed 'Twin Peaks' in 2017. Australian animated outback adventure 'Larrikins' for Tim Minchin for which Watts is lending her voice talents is currently filming for a 2018 release, and 'Ophelia' has been recently announced also for 2018 too.

All up Watts has 76 acting credits to her name and nine as Producer. To date, she has amassed 52 award wins and another 81 nominations including two Academy Award, one Golden Globe and one BAFTA nod for her work on '21 Grams' and 'The Impossible'. Watts was romantically linked to Heath Ledger from 2002 until 2004, and then Liev Schreiber since 2005 with whom she has two boys - Alexander Pete (born in 2007) and Samuel Kai (born in 2008). In 2006, she became a goodwill ambassador for the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, and has supported many associated initiatives in the ensuing years.

Naomi Watts - considers herself as much Australian as English; good friends with Nicole Kidman, Simon Baker, Sean Penn, Kate Hudson, Mark Ruffalo et al; has worked with the best Actors and Directors in the business; has worked across just about every genre; has been voted on numerous 'Top Lists' in the last fifteen years; practices yoga, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and is vegetarian; and continues to surprise and delight us with her film choices and her performances. Happy Birthday to you Naomi, from Odeon Online.

-Steve, at Odeon Online-

Friday, 23 September 2016

BLOOD FATHER : Wednesday 21st September 2016.

It's good to see Mel Gibson back in a leading role in the recently released 'BLOOD FATHER', and for the first time since 2012's 'Get The Gringo' which he also Co-Wrote and Co-Produced and which whilst hardly a Box Office sensation was a welcome return to form for the former Hollywood A-List Actor, Writer, Producer and Director who had fallen from grace since 'Apocalypto' in 2006. Now in 2016, Gibson is back and playing a bad-ass grindhouse rescue and revenge type in this Jean-Francois Richet Directed film based on the book of the same name by Peter Craig. Gibson has received much praise for his role in this B-Grade movie that for the Actor seeking to make his comeback might be seen as a case of art imitating life. Watch out too for Mel's return to Directing duty with WWII drama 'Hacksaw Ridge' due in November this year. 'Blood Father' had its world premier at this years Cannes Film Festival in May, and was released Stateside in early August, before its Australian release on 1st September.

Mel's character John Link is a Vietnam War Veteran, an ex-convict out on parole and a former alcoholic still sharing the love at regular AA meetings and trying to live off the grid in the outback desert so as not to draw any unnecessary attention to himself with the local authorities. He lives in a beat up caravan trailer on the edge of a hicksville community eeking out a living as a tattoo artist, whilst under the watchful eye of his sponsor and parole officer Kirby (William H. Macy) whom he seems to have a pretty solid relationship with based on mutual respect, and an understanding of their fractured lives that have brought them both to this point.

Essentially we join Link celebrating two years of being off the booze and ably supported by his friend Kirby. Link is fighting plenty of inner demons, one of which is having lost all contact with his sixteen year old daughter Lydia (Erin Moriarty) who has got tied up with all manner of low life nasty criminal types down Mexico way. Her boyfriend manages 'stash houses' for the local drug cartel, and discovers that some residents renting one such stash house have stolen a stash of cash hidden in the walls of a remote rental property. This boyfriend, Jonah (Diego Luna) who has designs on becoming a drug kingpin rocks up to his stash house with every intention of making the residents pay for their misdemeanours, with Lydia and his entourage in tow. Jonah orders Lydia to shoot and kill the woman of the house to prove her love for him, but Lydia can't bring herself to commit the act, despite having just snorted a nose full of cocaine. In the ensuing melee, Lydia turns the gun on Jonah and shoots him in the neck accidentally, and promptly bolts out the door, believing her boyfriend to now be dead.

As a result she goes on the run from both the local police and the drug cartel with only her estranged Dad to turn to. Out of desperation she calls her Dad, asking for a loan of $2,000 in cash so that she can make a fresh start and lie low until the heat subsides. John is surprised to hear from her after such a prolonged period of absence and the two agree to meet in Santa Monica, where John will pick up his daughter and bring her back to his trailer in the desert where he hopes they will reconnect and make up for lost time. In doing so he under estimates her drug induced and alcohol fuelled state, and the fact that her boyfriends posse will be hot on her trail seeking retribution. The two get reacquainted over a few days, before one night Jonah's posse arrives looking for Lydia and make a damn nuisance of themselves that results in John's trailer getting shot to pieces and overturned. However, Kirby and his own trailer park posse arrive to save John and Lydia from certain death, allowing the two to go on the run before the local Police arrive.

And so the two hit the road to evade the Police and those pesky drug cartel types aided by some they come up against and hindered by others. John is reasonably well connected and we learn that he served prison time to cover the misdeeds of Preacher (Michael Parks) who is a former friend. The passing of time and the fact that Preacher is now living in a near state of poverty provides a different motivation for Preacher and his wife Cherise (Dale Dickey) who know that there is a $30,000 reward on Lydia's head and they are both on the run from the law. John feels that he is owed something for remaining silent while in prison all those years. Escaping from gun point at the hands of Preacher and his wife, John and Lydia make their getaway on John's old Harley-Davidson Softail, which Preacher had been minding all this time. On the highway John and Lydia are pursued by two motorcycle riding hitmen, who are both subsequently killed.

Father and daughter then check into a local motel. John shaves off his beard and Lydia dyes her hair blond, while the news channels are full of reports of the two fugitives on the run. John visits an old contact in prison to gather information on Jonah and his family and cartel connections to check exactly what he is dealing with, while Lydia is to sit tight. However, Lydia receives a call from Kirby advising her that she is in imminent danger and make her way to a public place where she will be safe, such as a movie theatre. We subsequently learn that Kirby has been captured by Jonah's henchmen and is giving these instructions under duress. Lydia is called out of the movie theatre and confronted by Jonah - very much alive but sporting a gaping bullet wound in the neck, from her hand.

Lydia is taken captive and used as bait to entrap John with a rendezvous at some secluded spot in the desert off the highway. While John is speaking with Jonah over the phone receiving his set of meeting instructions, he hears the gunshots in the background dispensing with Kirby. Before making off for the meeting point now mightily pissed off, John returns to Preachers place to pick up some munitions that he knows are stashed away - a landmine and some hand grenades. He drives off to the agreed meeting place and parks his motor cycle in the path on the dirt track blocking the access of Jonah's SUV, and props up his bike using the landmine which becomes armed in the process. With John and Lydia is in the back of the Jonah's SUV awaiting certain death, two of the henchmen have to clear the Harley-Davidson out of the road. Needless to say, dislodging the landmine and KaBoom! two down three to go!

In the ensuing fracas inside the SUV John overpowers one of the henchmen, but Jonah escapes after an exchange of fire power having been shot. He limps off into the sunset, leaving a professional hitman to dispense with John and Lydia from an overlooking hill top. In the duel that follows, both John and the hitman shoot each other. The hitman dies instantly, and John falls besides the car to be comforted in his death throes by his daughter.

Soon afterwards, the Highway Patrol arrive en masse and pick up Jonah wandering aimlessly in the desert, although I have to say I am not sure who would have alerted the local Police, or how they would have known this shit was going down in some remote hidden away location in the desert! In the closing scenes Jonah is wearing a prison issue orange suit and is surrounded by Johns former prison mates who know that their friend died because of the new incarcerated inmate. We then fast forward a year, to find Lydia at that same AA meeting spot where her father attended stating she has been clean for a year now, and how she misses her Dad.

I enjoyed this simple yet well told story of revenge, retribution and family reconnection. Gibson is on fine form as the father figure given an unexpected second chance to make amends with his estranged daughter and prepared to go to any lengths to protect her so that she can make something of her life, and learn from his own mistakes. Featuring plenty of gun play, chase sequences, emotion and a grizzled world weary lead character dispensing his own brand of justice none of this is over the top for the sake of cheap thrills, but are shown in the context of a grounded father/daughter relationship prevailing at any cost. Catch it while you still can on limited release and give Mel Gibson a second chance - I don't think you'll be disappointed!

-Steve, at Odeon Online-

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

What's new in Odeon's this week : Thursday 22nd September 2016

The release of Oliver Stone's 'Snowden' this week marks the Director's 25th feature film in a long, varied, successful and at times controversial career dating back to 1971 as an Actor, Screenwriter, Producer and Director that has seen him collect numerous Academy, Golden Globe and BAFTA Awards for his Direction and as Producer. Here is a quick summary of the man's back catalogue to date :-

* 1974 - 'Seizure' - Horror - Director | Co-Writer
* 1981 - 'The Hand' - Horror - Director | Writer
* 1986 - 'Salvador' - War Drama - Director | Producer | Co-Writer
* 1986 - 'Platoon' - War Drama - Director | Writer
* 1987 - 'Wall Street' - Drama - Director | Co-Writer
* 1988 - 'Talk Radio' - Drama - Director | Co-Writer
* 1989 - 'Born on the Fourth of July' - War Drama - Director | Producer | Co-Writer
* 1991 - 'The Doors' - Biographical Drama - Director | Co-Writer
* 1991 - 'JFK' - Biographical Drama - Director | Producer | Co-Writer
* 1993 - 'Heaven & Earth' - War Drama - Director | Producer | Writer
* 1994 - 'Natural Born Killers' - Crime Drama - Director | Co-Writer
* 1995 - 'Nixon' - Biographical Drama - Director | Producer | Co-Writer
* 1997 - 'UTurn' - Crime Drama - Director | Co-Writer
* 1999 - 'Any Given Sunday' - Sports Drama - Director | Producer | Co-Writer
* 2003 - 'Persona Non Grata' - Political Documentary - Director
* 2003 - 'Commandante' - Political Documentary - Director
* 2004 - 'Alexander' - Historical Epic - Director | Co-Writer
* 2004 - 'Looking for Fidel' - Political Documentary - Director
* 2006 - 'World Trade Centre' - Disaster Drama - Director
* 2008 - 'W.' - Biographical Drama - Director
* 2009 - 'South of the Border' - Political Documentary - Director
* 2010 - 'Wall Street : Money Never Sleeps' - Drama - Director
* 2012 - 'Savages' - Crime Drama - Director | Co-Writer
* 2012 - 'The Untold History of the United States' - Documentary series - Director | Writer
* 2016 - 'Snowden' - Biographical Drama - Director | Co-Writer

Along the way Oliver Stone also Written or Co-Wrote the Screenplays for 'Midnight Express' (1978), 'Conan the Barbarian' (1982), 'Scarface' (1983), 'Year of the Dragon' (1985), 'Eight Million Ways To Die' (1985) and 'Evita' (1996). All up, that's a fairly prolific track record!

Turning out attention to this week we have just three new movies coming to your local neighbourhood cinema screen, kicking off with a biographical telling of a whistleblower extraordinaire in the very recent past that caused a major upset in his own country and in others when he spilled the beans. Then we have two very different animated offerings both featuring animals - one from Sony Imageworks featuring delivery birds and a 'newborn', and another from Studio Ghibli featuring a giant turtle and a man stranded on a desert island.

As every week you are invited to leave your own critique when you have sat through your film of choice in the coming week, by leaving a remark or two in the Comments Box below this or any other Post. We'd love to hear your views too, and in the meantime, enjoy your movie.

'SNOWDEN' (Rated M) - this biographical political drama was Co-Written for the screen and Directed by Oliver Stone and based on the books 'The Snowden Files' by The Guardian's foreign correspondent Luke Harding, and 'The Time of the Octopus' by Russian lawyer and Doctor of Law Anatoly Kucherena. The former is an in depth biography of Edward Snowden's story, and the latter is a story of a fictional American whistleblower seeking asylum in Russia. The film rights for both books were acquired by Oliver Stone and form the foundation of this account of Edward Snowden, who hit the international headlines in mid-2013 for leaking classified information from the National Security Agency to The Guardian in the June of that year. With an all star cast, Stone was so worried about filming in the US and reprisals from the NSA, that he shot the film mostly outside of the US in Munich and Hong Kong with some footage filmed in Washington D.C. and Hawaii. A controversial man and a controversial story with Snowden being hailed a whistleblower, a dissident, a hero, a freedom fighter, a patriot and a traitor - you can decide for yourself!

Featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Edward Snowden and Shailene Woodley as his girlfriend Lindsay Mills, the film tells the story of this American computer professional, former Central Intelligence Agency employee and former contractor for the United States government who copied and leaked classified information from the NSA without any authorisation. His disclosures revealed numerous global surveillance programs, many run by the NSA and the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance with the cooperation of telecommunication companies and Governments across Europe. After leaving his job at an NSA facility in Hawaii, Snowden flew to Hong Kong and in early June 2013 he revealed thousands of classified NSA documents to numerous journalists which then appeared in The Guardian and The Washington Post and other newspapers including Der Spiegel and The New York Times. After being charged by the US Government on two counts of espionage and theft of classified information he flew to Moscow seeking asylum which he was granted for twelve months, subsequently extended to three years. He remains in Russia as of this date, and co-operated in the making of this film. Also starring Zachary Quinto, Nicolas Cage, Tom Wilkinson, Scott Eastwood, Timothy Olyphant, Rhys Ifans, Melissa Leo, and Joely Richardson . . . and Edward Snowden. The film cost US$40M to make.

'STORKS' (Rated G) - here's one for the younger and the young at heart just in time for the Australian September school holiday fortnight. This CG animated adventure comedy has home delivery storks as its premise, but no longer the kind that deliver oh so cute babies to expecting parents you understand. In this era of social media, on-line shopping and next day delivery, storks deliver packages for a global giant internet shopping business called CornerStore.com. Junior (voiced by Adam Samberg) is a white stork and also the company's #1 delivery stork and in line for promotion, when inadvertently he activates a baby making machine and hey presto, out pops a beautiful cute and so unauthorised baby girl. Before boss Hunter (voiced by Kelsey Grammer) gets wind of the recent baby arrival, it's up to Junior and Tulip (voiced by Katie Crown) the only human working at CornerStore.com to devise a cunning plan to deliver the baby girl, create a family unit and return the storks to their true calling in life. Written, Co-Produced and Co-Directed by Nicholas Stoller and starring the other voice talents of Jennifer Aniston, Danny Trejo, Ty Burrel and Keegan-Michael Key.

'THE RED TURTLE' (Rated PG) - Co-Written and Directed in his debut feature film by Dutch/British animator Michael Dudok de Wit in collaboration with the famed Japanese Studio Ghibli this dialogue free animated feature length film has so far wowed audience the world over where it has been shown on the festival circuit and so far released. It premiered in the Un Certain Regard category at Cannes earlier this year and took out the Special Prize for the films Director. Here a shipwrecked sailor is washed up on a desert island and exploring his new found home he soon discovers it to be a little piece of paradise with swaying palm trees, freshwater rock pools, rocky outcrops and a bamboo forest. However, despite his idyllic surrounding he is desperate to leave, and over time as he attempts to do so his plans are thwarted by a giant red turtle. This fable or fairy tale type offering is open to your own interpretation but it explores nature and mans interaction with it when there is no alternative and he has to succumb to its beauty, its power and its wonder. Drawn beautifully, this simple tale is a must see on the big screen.

With just three offerings this week and a whole bunch of other great movies out on general release and as Reviewed and Previewed here, you have every reason to get out to your local picture house for two hours of escapism and entertainment. Share your views here when you have done so. I'll see you in the week ahead at the Odeon.

-Steve, at Odeon Online-

Monday, 19 September 2016

THE BEATLES : EIGHT DAYS A WEEK : Friday 16th September 2016

The Beatles were bigger than Jesus so John Lennon once claimed, and looking through much of the archive footage that comprises the film 'THE BEATLES : EIGHT DAYS A WEEK - THE TOURING YEARS' it is easy to see why he had made that controversial remark. Directed by Ron Howard with the full approval, support and co-operation of Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison this fan film traces the four likely lads from Liverpool rise to fame from 1962 through until 1966 during which time they staged some 250 concerts, recorded numerous singles and albums, toured the world, were interviewed to within an inch of their lives, made a couple of feature length films, but still remained the lads from Liverpool at heart just out having a laugh!

Ron Howard's documentary tribute starts off in 1962 with the four mop-top lads playing the club scene in and around Liverpool gaining a relatively strong underground audience from their humble beginnings at Liverpool's Cavern Club. As mid-teenagers with a keen interest in music John, Paul and George had been playing together for some years with Ringo being the last to join the ensemble in August 1962. Those early days show how John, Paul, George and Ringo just clicked and became a band of brothers, how they shared everything, and how tightly knit they would become. It would take Brian Epstein who managed them having discovered them at a lunchtime gig at The Cavern Club in late 1961, to tidy up their act, put them in suits and ties, and help propel them into the stratosphere.

With found footage film, new stills and video that has subsequently come to light, and interviews with the likes of Elvis Costello, Whoopi Goldberg, Sigourney Weaver and Eddie Izzard who were there in the thick of it as young kids when Beatlemania gripped the world like never before seen, this documentary provides a chronological account year by year of the band as they played, toured, wrote, filmed and interviewed their way around the world relentlessly for a four year plus period. During this time they played a staggering 250 or more concerts in between doing everything else as well as simply trying to live their lives.

Greeted by hordes of literally tens of thousands of teenage fans (mostly girls who dragged along their boyfriends and often parents) everywhere they went, the four lads were mobbed and hounded by their adoring fanbase and the media. Television was still a relatively new concept and it was their live performance on The Ed Sullivan Show that established their further fame in the US - naturally a highly lucrative market. Record sales got their name out their but it was the concerts that made them real money, and by 1965 their famed US tour took in sixteen concerts in sixteen days including the ground breaking and history making Shea Stadium gig that played in front of 56,000 fans (a record number at that time). Seeing this 30 minute concert digitally remastered and presented after the closing credits of the film in 4K makes you realise how primitive live concerts were back in the day and just how far live performance has come. But for all of that, you can't knock the music, and the lads enthusiasm and their ability to play to an unprecedented audience of that size.

And so Howard's tribute continues to their final full concert in 1966 in San Francisco at Candlestick Park on August 29th, where again in front of a huge capacity crowd the boys sound was drowned out by the screams of wild fans, as their music played through the grounds tannoi system. Tired and just over the never ending spiral of gigs, media attention, travel and recording, the boys unanimously decided to call  it a day from touring. Every decision they ever made as a collective band all in it together was that it had to be an all in unanimous decision, and in touring that die was cast. They spent the next five or so years in the studio with their Music Producer George Martin reinventing themselves, experimenting and releasing studio albums and producing arguably their best work. They were after all, growing up, maturing in their musical styles and ready to take The Beatles in a new direction.

This film is a real trip down memory lane for those who can remember The Beatles back in the day and even the time when the four Liverpool likely lads split and each followed their own musical destiny afterwards. Or, for those who have only recently discovered The Beatles and their musical legacy, it is an insight into The Fab Four - how they came to be, how they clicked together as a cohesive unit, their shared beliefs, their creativity, their defining moments and what made them singularly and collectively. Howard's film will make you tap your feet, make you smile, make you laugh at the freedom the lads had to voice their opinions in a time before social media or the Internet without fear of instant rebuttal. They didn't take life too seriously, just in it for a 'laff' but they and the world got carried along on a tidal wave of fan frenzy, an avalanche of media attention, and a four year firestorm of musical output in just about every sense that was completely unique at that time.

I enjoyed this film, more than I thought I would, never having been a huge Beatles fan and more a product of the '80's with just a passing interest in the music of the '60's. But nonetheless, this new and refreshing perspective sheds welcome light on John, Paul, George and Ringo for me that I found compelling, interesting and rewarding viewing. If I had to pick any fault, it would be that of their personal lives was barely touched up, and with three of the band being married by the time they stopped touring in 1966 this is skipped over completely other than a single still photograph of John & Cynthia Lennon with young Julian. On this I would have liked to see a little more depth - the impact of the concerts, time away from loved ones, travelling with family, The Beatles immediate 'community'. All of that said, catch this film while you can - you won't be disappointed whether you're a Beatles fan or not - it makes no difference - see it for the nostalgia, see it for the history, see it for the music, see it for the legend, see four Liverpool lads having a laff riding the crest of a wave in all their cheekiness, euphoria, charm, musical talent and unwittingly creating a legacy that is still strong today.
-Steve, at Odeon Online-