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Item"1408" directed by Mikael Hafstrom [review](Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2007-11-22) Prescott, Nicholas Adrian1408 is a puzzling film, in many ways. It’s puzzling primarily because John Cusack is in it, and it’s not a very good film. This is an oddity, in my opinion; the ever-likeable Cusack very rarely steps out of line, usually pairing engaging turns as co-writer with canny role choices onscreen. Sadly, this, Cusack’s latest outing as a leading man, is a very dull experience; he neither wrote nor produced nor executive-anythinged it; indeed it seems suspiciously like he might have been offered too good a deal as an actor to refuse, and that he took the money and ran. Don’t get me wrong, he’s fun to watch, and he plays the not-quite-average-Joe with great skill, but it’s all in service of a film that you’re likely to forget the moment the final credits’ reflection fades from your eyeballs. Item"16 Blocks" directed by Richard Donner [review](Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2006-08-03) Prescott, NickTo say that audiences haven’t heard much of Bruce Willis lately isn’t quite accurate; the actor has voiced a number of animated characters recently, even if he hasn’t appeared in the visual sense terribly often. As a man who became a superstar in the 1980s, Willis doesn’t need to work constantly; I’m sure the villa in Tuscany or the castle in the Scottish Highlands would have been comfortably paid for by now. It’s interesting, then, to observe the kinds of roles that will draw Bruce back in front of the cameras: with 16 Blocks, the actor is returning to the kind of grungy, unshaven, hard-drinking cop he played in the third Die Hard film. Item"3:10 To Yuma" directed by James Mangold [review](2008-02-14) Prescott, Nicholas AdrianFifty years ago, Elmore Leonard (these days most revered as a crime writer, whose novels include Get Shorty, Out of Sight and Killshot, which has also just been filmed) wrote a short story called 3:10 to Yuma. It centred around the struggle to escort a nasty stagecoach-robber and gunslinger, Ben Wade (here played by Russell Crowe) to a train that would transport him to Yuma prison. Delmer Daves directed a film version in 1957 which starred Van Heflin and Glenn Ford, and which was well-received as a decent Western made during the classical Hollywood cycle. These days of course, really good, traditional Westerns are few and far between, but James Mangold’s updating and remake of Leonard’s story proves to be a terrific return to this tried and true genre. Mainly for lads it may well be, but it’s a hell of a pic if you fit the demographic. Item"44 Inch Chest" directed by Malcolm Venille [review](Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2010-11-12) Prescott, NickI can’t quite believe that it was almost ten years ago that I was raving to everyone I knew about an independent film from England called Sexy Beast. The great Ray Winstone (who began his career on TV in Robin of Sherwood, of all things) gave a bravura performance as Gal, a retired British criminal living on the Costa del Sol, laying low and enjoying the sunshine. Into his idyllic retirement came the terrifying Don – a genuinely frightening Ben Kingsley – whose mission was to entice Gal back to Blighty for one last job. The fireworks began there and didn’t let up for another 100 minutes; Sexy Beast was the most bracing, hilarious, tense and unmissable film about British criminality and masculinity to come along for years. Item"Across the Universe" directed by Julie Taymor [review](Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2008) Prescott, Nicholas AdrianDirector and co-writer Julie Taymor gets points here for concocting one of the strangest and most fascinating musicals of recent years. Across the Universe is a story of the 1960s and of the now, performed as a dramatic musical set entirely to the great songs of The Beatles. With a strong and affecting narrative tied together by often breathtaking modern performances of the great Lennon/McCartney pieces, Across the Universe is a strange and at times staggering trip. Item"Ashes to Ashes" directed by Johnny Campbell, Bille Eltringham [review](Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2009-10-22) Prescott, NickSeveral years ago, audiences in both the UK and Australia were introduced to the wondrous BBC drama Life on Mars. Taking its name from a David Bowie song, Life on Mars followed the intriguing exploits of a 2006 Manchester cop, Sam Tyler, (played by the wonderful John Simm) who was hit by a car and seemingly sent back in time to 1973. The show functioned as a compelling psychological thriller, following Tyler’s efforts to discover what had sent him back in time (was he in a coma, dying, dreaming, or in some kind of limbo-land or Purgatory?) and his attempts to escape 1973 and get back to his life in 2006. At the same time, the show was a loving and at times hilarious re-creation of the 1970s British cop-show milieu (think of The Sweeney crossed with The Professionals, but shot with today’s filmmaking technology), and it featured the wonderful Philip Glenister as the now-iconic DCI Gene Hunt, a politically-incorrect, hilariously foul-mouthed and utterly lovable character who infuriated Tyler as often as he helped him in his various quests. Item"Bee Movie" directed by Steve Hickner and Simon Smith [review](Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2007-12-06) Prescott, Nicholas AdrianIt’s very clear that the Christmas holidays are on their way: we’ve got the first of the season’s family films, here in the shape of the “computer-animated comedy voiced by Hollywood royalty” - Bee Movie. The film has been co-written, produced and graced with a central vocal performance by Jerry Seinfeld, the man who made a genuine fortune as star of his own legendary sitcom and who has been far from the limelight for quite some time. Item"Beowulf" directed by Robert Zemeckis [review](Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2007-11-29) Prescott, Nicholas AdrianBeowulf, the latest computer-animated blockbuster-wannabe to emerge from Hollywood’s studios, is in some ways a follow-up to director Robert Zemeckis’ 2004 CGI extravaganza, The Polar Express. Zemeckis, who has long held a kind of secondtier monopoly on Hollywood fare beneath Steven Spielberg, has always embraced cutting-edge technology in order to make the special effects in his films as eyepopping as possible. Those of us who are old enough to remember when the original Back to the Future was released (in 1985) will attest to the fact that, in its day, that film was about as remarkable for its visual effects as it was for its wildly entertaining story. Zemeckis has had many successes subsequently, from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? to Forrest Gump and Castaway, and all of them have had their share of behind-the-scenes techno-gimmickry to keep them buzzing. With Beowulf, Zemeckis has continued the SFX tradition, and has looked to an extraordinarily old narrative in order to pilfer a storyline: a poem that’s roughly 1,000 years old. The results, sadly, are nowhere near as successful as Michael J. Fox in a Delorean time-machine. Item"Borat" directed by Larry Charles [review](2006) Prescott, Nicholas AdrianSacha Baron Cohen is a man who’s used to offending people. For years now the gifted British comic has, in his hugely successful TV shows, created and masqueraded as a series of idiotic and hilarious caricature figures, most famously the sexist homeboy Ali G and the buffoonish TV host Borat Sagdiyev. Through these creations, Cohen has satirised not just the broad cultural types he’s playing with, but the gamut of reactions that they generate in others, as well. It’s a fascinating kind of comedy, predicated upon the comic’s cunning ability to catch his audience(s) entirely offguard. Cohen seems to be a master at it, and with this new film version of Borat he has brought his extraordinarily confronting comic gift to the big screen. Item"The Bourne Ultimatum" directed by Paul Greengrass [review](2007-08-16) Prescott, Nicholas Adrian2007 has certainly been the year of Hollywood “threequels”. Spider-Man 3, Ocean’s Thirteen, Shrek the Third and Pirates of the Caribbean 3 have all seen release this year, and now we await the third instalment of the hugely successful Bourne series, which will hit our screens at the end of this month. The Bourne Ultimatum (which follows The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy) is currently smashing its way through almost everything else at the US box-office, and will no doubt make a significant impact when it opens here. Item"The Brave One" directed by Neil Jordan [review](Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2007) Prescott, Nicholas AdrianThere’s arguably no film more disappointing than one that demonstrates just how intelligent and well made it can be, only to betray that intelligence by selling out to lowest-common-denominator elements in the end. The Brave One is, sadly, just such a film; it begins evocatively and develops intelligently, only to end preposterously. So near, as they say, and yet so far. Item"Candy" directed by Neil Armfield [review](Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2006-05-26) Prescott, NickIt’s my pleasure to announce that Australian cinema audiences can once again rejoice in the arrival of a sterling new Australian film. Candy, based on Luke Davies’ well-received 1997 novel, is the first big-screen feature-film effort from acclaimed theatre director Neil Armfield, and it’s a pretty stunning piece. Item"Cars" directed by John Lasseter [review](Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2006) Prescott, Nicholas AdrianThe latest offering from the Pixar animation studio finds itself in an odd predicament. As the most recent entry in a series of astonishingly entertaining computer-animated films, Cars has an awful lot to live up to, and while the film is by no means terrible, it really does suffer from comparisons with its siblings. Pixar’s Toy Story (1995), A Bug’s Life (1998), Monsters, Inc (2001) and especially The Incredibles (2004) were all brilliantly funny and wildly entertaining; the films set successive benchmarks for the quality of computer-animation, and they all demonstrated their makers’ awareness of the one crucial element that sets extraordinary kids’ films apart from more everyday offerings – wonderful writing. Cars, by contrast, comes off as an extremely technically proficient but ultimately lacklustre effort. Extraordinarily realized in a technical sense, with cutting-edge digital animation that truly boggles the mind, Cars looks and sounds amazing: it’s the premise and the narrative itself that let the film down. Item"Casino Royale" directed by Martin Campbell [review](Australian Broadcasting Coperation, 2006) Prescott, Nicholas AdrianMost audience members will have gleaned the basic facts about the latest in the 007 franchise by now, so I’ll keep the facts here to the bare-bones variety. This is the 21st entry in the most successful series of films in cinema history, and it stars Daniel Craig as a newly-minted James Bond, taking up where Pierce Brosnan most recently left off. Based upon Ian Fleming’s first ever Bond novel, Casino Royale is a “modernised trip back in time”, if you will; set in today’s high-tech environment, it travels back to the beginnings of the Bond mythology, beginning Bond’s story as a “double-0” agent and following him as he earns his license to kill. Item"Children of Men" directed by Alfonso Cuaron [review](Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2008) Prescott, Nicholas AdrianChildren of Men will, I suspect, be remembered alongside other dark cautionary tales like Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four. The film is based upon a novel by well-regarded crime writer P.D. James, who has occasionally written what is broadly termed “Literary fiction”. The novel upon which Children of Men is based was first published in 1992, and shares much with the dystopian science fiction of Huxley and Orwell. Set in a devastated Britain of 2027, the novel depicts a society that has become infertile: women are unable to conceive children and the population is nearing its “end of days”. With a background of devastating environmental decay and widespread anarchy, this is a bleak story indeed, and it has been turned into a bleak and brilliant film by director Alfonso Cuaron. Item"Colour me Kubrick" directed by Brian Cook [review](Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2006-06-08) Prescott, NickFor both film aficionados and the public at large, Stanley Kubrick has long been a figure of fascination. Interest in Kubrick as an artistic figure has continued in leaps and bounds since the great director’s untimely death in 1999. As the visionary creator of many of the twentieth century’s landmark films, works like 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Dr Strangelove, Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick was a figure of intense acclaim and interest during his lifetime; a significant percentage of the world’s artistic community followed the filmmaker’s projects with obsessive interest. In his latter years, Kubrick’s refusal to travel outside England and his tendency toward reclusiveness increased his attraction for other parts of the popular press, as well as for gossip-mongers and mythographers. During the last decade of his life, however (and in large part because of the aura of mystery that had come to surround him) Kubrick attracted one of the most bizarre forms of attention possible: he was impersonated by a trickster, a con-man who passed himself off as the famous director in order to take advantage of the goodwill of individuals who were, it would seem, all too willing to believe they had encountered the great man in person. Item"Confetti" directed by Debbie Isitt [review](Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2006-08-03) Prescott, NickWith both Confetti and the new Australian mockumentary Kenny set to hit our screens in the next few weeks, the fictional documentary is about to experience something of a resurgence in our fair city. During the last ten years, this odd (and easy to produce) genre has blossomed to the point that in both the film and television arenas there have been some astonishing successes made of inexpensive though brilliantly conceived “fly on the wall” fictions. Christopher Guest and co have carved a satirical niche in the US with films like Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman and A Mighty Wind, while in the UK Ricky Gervais made television comedy history with the inspired and excruciatingly discomfiting The Office. Item"The Constant Gardener" directed by Fernando Mireilles [review](Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2005) Prescott, NickJohn Le Carre, perhaps the most celebrated author of espionage fiction of the late Twentieth Century, has, in his more recent work, explored some of the genuinely troubling world events that have begun to drive our planet since the end of the cold war. The Constant Gardener, set in Kenya and London, caused something of a stir on its release as a book; here was a tragic love story played out against a backdrop of big-business corruption, Governmental apathy and the exploitation of the third world. Large-scale and complex issues these most certainly are, and Le Carre brilliantly examines them by focussing on the effects wrought upon a pair of lovers caught up in the midst of cataclysmic events. Item"The Counterfeiters" directed by Stefan Rudzowitcky [review](Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2008-05) Prescott, Nicholas AdrianFilms set during World War II often come laden with extraordinarily heavy emotional baggage, and while The Counterfeiters isn’t exactly an exception to this rule, it at least provides as uplifting and humanist a message as is possible, given its setting and subject matter. In the hands of a man who, on the surface of things, seems the most unlikely director, The Counterfeiters tells the true story of a group of German Jews who, while imprisoned in a concentration camp during the second world war, were given certain privileges and leniencies in return for engaging in a large-scale forgery effort on behalf of the German Army. Item"The Dark Knight" directed by Christopher Nolan [review](Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2008-12-04) Prescott, NickIt’s a testament to both the immense critical and commercial success of The Dark Knight and the extraordinary legacy of the late Heath Ledger that this DVD release will almost surely be the home video blockbuster of the year. You heard right, dear readers: the film that made roughly half a billion dollars at the worldwide box-office and trounced pretty much everything else at the cinema this year (including other terrific releases like Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Iron Man) will be sure to sell a zillion DVD copies, and there are more than a few different versions to choose from, too.