ABC Film Reviews

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    "Colour me Kubrick" directed by Brian Cook [review]
    (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2006-06-08) Prescott, Nick
    For 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.
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    "Talk to Me" directed by Kasi Lemmons [review]
    (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2008-02-21) Prescott, Nick
    A fitting film to review on radio, this: Talk to Me tells the quite fascinating story of Ralph Waldo “Petey” Green, an African-American ex-convict who, in the mid-late 1960s, became a sensation, a radio personality the likes of whom Washington DC had never heard. Don Cheadle, the brilliant actor who has done so much great work with Steven Soderbergh (most people think of him as the fun-loving Basher Tarr from the Ocean’s films, but he’s also done great work in Traffic and Out of Sight) here plays the real-life (and larger-than-life) figure of Green, who, without any real training in either public speaking or radio work, talked his way onto the American airwaves in 1966 and changed them forever.
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    "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End" [review]
    (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2007-05-24) Prescott, Nick
    Sadly, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End proves that the “third time lucky” adage doesn’t hold true when Hollywood producers are trying to make lightning strike the same spot once again. Lightning certainly struck in 2003, when the original Pirates of the Caribbean film was released. Despite the fact that many cinemagoers were dubious about a film based on a Disneyland ride, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl hit the spot, and then some. A stellar cast (led by the astonishing Johnny Depp playing his pirate captain Jack Sparrow as Keith Richards) swashed and buckled its way through a wonderfully entertaining plot, while the best CGI wizards money could buy contributed eye-popping visual effects that managed to help tell the story without overwhelming it. I for one could not believe that such a gleefully entertaining and witty film could have been concocted from a fun-ride, and I left the cinema, as so many punters did, on that bubble-gum high that only great big Hollywood experiences can provide.
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    ''La Vie en Rose'' directed by Olivier Dahan [review]
    (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2007-07-13) Prescott, Nick
    Given that it’s Harry Potter time again (the fifth film in the series has rolled out this week) it’s also that part of the cinematic year during which any number of smaller, quieter, even – dare one say it – potentially more interesting films can come and go almost undetected in the wake of the box-office juggernauts. Not that there’s anything wrong with young Harry; it’s just that enormous franchises like his can so easily obscure worthy smaller films that dare to open at around the same time. La Vie en Rose is precisely such an offering: a carefully made and beautifully performed bio-pic of legendary French songstress Edith Piaf. The film has been a big deal in its native country, and rightly so; here though it’s a minor art-house release, and in my opinion it’s absolutely worthy of discussion.
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    "True Blood" directed by Alan Ball et al. [review]
    (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2009-05-28) Prescott, Nick
    The obsession with Vampires continues here, in the shape of this enormously popular HBO production, which has just hit our shelves on DVD. With the Twilight phenomenon by no means over, and with the second and third films for that series already in production, the 21st-Century vampiric cycle, it would seem, is going to be running strong for some time. HBO has joined the league of studios busily resurrecting this genre (if you’ll excuse the pun) and it seems like just the right kind of television studio to make a vampire series, as it’s a cable-based enterprise, and is not bound by the kinds of censorship restrictions that govern free-to-air shows. This fact explains that the first thing viewers will discover about True Blood: it is very, very confronting indeed.
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    "Jumper" directed by Doug Liman [review]
    (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2008-02-14) Prescott, Nick
    Jumper continues the worrying Hollywood trend of spending 150 million dollars on a movie and forgetting to buy a decent script. This wannabe-blockbuster, this sci-fi mishmash, wants to thrill us and awe us with its mile-a-minute pace and its cutting-edge special effects, but what it really achieves, after a decent opening, is battering its audience into submission with one scarcely comprehensible action set-piece after another, with almost no character development or suspense to hold it together in any meaningful way at all.
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    "The Dark Knight" directed by Christopher Nolan [review]
    (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2008-12-04) Prescott, Nick
    It’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.
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    "World Trade Center" directed by Oliver Stone [review]
    (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2006-10-05) Prescott, Nick
    Oliver Stone’s most recent film before this one was the wannabe-epic and Colin Farrell vehicle Alexander. That film, which played worldwide to choruses of raucous laughter, has gone down in recent history as one of the most costly and ill-advised flops of the new millennium. It is fascinating, then, to see Stone follow that disastrous misfire up with an altogether different beast: an observant and powerfully-made film about one of our generation’s defining real-life tragedies, the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001.
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    "Miss Potter" directed by Chris Noonan [review]
    (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2006-01-25) Prescott, Nick
    To answer the most pressing question first: no, this isn’t a film about Harry Potter’s sister. Miss Potter, the charming new film by Chris Noonan (best known on our shores as the director of the original Babe) is a biopic built around the life and writing experiences of beloved children’s author Beatrix Potter. The creator of Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck and scores of other indescribably adorable animal characters is apparently still the highest-selling children’s author in history, beating everyone from Enid Blyton to latter-day picture book creators. Born in 1866, Beatrix Potter was a member of a reasonably affluent London family that had made its fortune in industry. As a young woman interested in making her own way in the world rather than settling for a convenient marriage, Beatrix spent many years proving to her rather strict and traditional parents that earning her own living as a writer and illustrator was nothing to be ashamed of. Potter’s mother in particular was deeply sceptical about her daughter’s talents and prospects, even in the face of Beatrix’s growing fame in the early years of the 20th century. Alongside these family struggles, Beatrix faced that with which we are all confronted in our growing up: romantic yearnings. These twin threads, family and romance, are really what the story of Miss Potter is built upon.
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    "Get Smart" directed by Peter Segal [review]
    (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2008-06-26) Prescott, Nick
    Like many people who mis-spent their youth watching too much television, I can remember a golden age of American TV comedy: it was characterised, for me, by the mid-1960s series created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, Get Smart. Born as a sort of comedic reaction to some of the more serious cold-war thrillers like Fail Safe and its Seven Days in May, Get Smart reduced the espionage landscape to an ongoing battle for supremacy between two shadowy spy agencies: the bad guys, K.A.O.S., and the good guys, CONTROL. Headed up by bungling spy-hero Maxwell Smart (who was of course anything but), and his wiser and far more competent “side-kick”, Agent 99, the CONTROL agency routinely foiled plots to explode bombs, assassinate Presidents, and generally destroy the balance of good and evil.
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    "Dexter. Season 1" directed by Michael Cuesta [review]
    (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2008-02-21) Prescott, Nick
    Dexter may well answer the question “How disturbing can a television series possibly get?” in the most intriguing and intelligent way. Based on a well-received (and wryly funny) novel by Jeff Lindsay, Dexter centres around the titular character of Dexter Morgan, a Forensic blood-splatter analyst working for the Miami police force, whose expertise at analysing blood patterns in part stems from the fact that he has himself caused a fair bit of blood to splatter over the years. Dexter, you see, is that rarest of sociopaths: a serial-killer who only strikes at victims who truly (in his eyes, at least) deserve to die. Dexter, whose childhood entailed traumas that are at first vaguely hinted at and then gradually become clearer as the series progresses, was taken in by a good-hearted cop (James Remar) and eventually raised to harness his murderous urges for the cause of good. Having grown up into the otherwise-respectable and utterly charming Police professional he is, Dexter spends his days working as a law-abiding cop, and his nights researching the lowest of low-lifes and then devoting himself heart and soul to wiping them off the face of the earth in the messiest of ways, always keeping a drop of their blood on a microscope slide as a souvenir.
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    "Jindabyne" directed by Ray Lawrence [review]
    (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2006-07-20) Prescott, Nick
    Jindabyne is the much-anticipated third feature film by Australian director Ray Lawrence, the man responsible for the best Aussie film of the last ten years, Lantana. Despite his impeccable industry credentials, Lawrence has had an unusual career as a director. After making the flawed but fascinating feature debut Bliss in 1985, Lawrence spent a decade and a half in the Australian filmmaking netherworld, working on acclaimed shorts and commercials, and trying in vain to get feature projects off the ground. When writer Andrew Bovell crossed Lawrence’s path in the late nineties, Lantana was born. Since the release of that revelation of a film in 2000, Lawrence hasn’t looked back.
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    "44 Inch Chest" directed by Malcolm Venille [review]
    (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2010-11-12) Prescott, Nick
    I 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.
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    "Iron Man 2" directed by Jon Favreau [review]
    (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2010-04-29) Prescott, Nick
    Iron Man smashed the box-office apart in 2008, and in the process reminded us all just how good Robert Downey Jr. is in pretty much anything he does, and also showed how an erstwhile actor (indy favourite Jon Favreau) could strut his stuff as a director of mega-budget action fare with the best of them. Iron Man had it all: gob-smacking special-effects, a wonderfully funny and engaging script, terrific performances and a rousing story. The film was perfect popcorn fare, and, as I said to myself upon leaving the cinema, “Where’s the harm in that?”
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    "Ashes to Ashes" directed by Johnny Campbell, Bille Eltringham [review]
    (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2009-10-22) Prescott, Nick
    Several 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.
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    "Candy" directed by Neil Armfield [review]
    (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2006-05-26) Prescott, Nick
    It’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.
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    "The Good German" directed by Steven Soderbergh [review]
    (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2007-03-15) Prescott, Nick
    Director Steven Soderbergh’s homage to wartime European cinema and to American film noir is a fascinating, challenging studio picture. As much a loving series of references to the great studio productions of the 1940s (Casablanca in particular) as it is a modern romantic thriller, The Good German functions on numerous levels at once, and in the capable hands of Soderbergh and his effortlessly charming actors, it’s quite wonderful to behold.
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    "Notes on a Scandal" directed by Richard Eyre [review]
    (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2007-02-08) Prescott, Nick
    Notes on a Scandal, adapted from Zoe Heller’s novel by the talented Patrick Marber (who wrote the bleakly brilliant Closer, which played a couple of years ago) is a dark and haunting fable about obsession and cruelty within human relationships. The subject matter is indeed somewhat unpleasant, though as with all well-crafted and cleverly written narratives of this kind, the fact that the story itself is forbidding doesn’t mean that the experience of seeing it played out should be. Notes on a Scandal is a slow-burner, and its bleak tale of obsession and compulsion makes for a compelling piece of cinema.
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    "16 Blocks" directed by Richard Donner [review]
    (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2006-08-03) Prescott, Nick
    To 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.
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    "Mamma Mia!" directed by Phyllida lloyd [review]
    (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2008-07-10) Prescott, Nick
    To set things “straight” (if one can even use that word without one’s tongue in one’s cheek when reviewing a movie such as this…) I haven’t seen the stage show upon which this film is based, and I don’t count myself as a fan of Swedish mega-popgroup ABBA. Like everyone else on the planet, however (well, everyone who’s had access to a television or a radio sometime during the last thirty years) I’ve heard most of ABBA’s songs a million times, and while I don’t dance along to them, I can tolerate them as the well-crafted pop they are.