Star Wars, redemption and the curious case of love

forceawakens-hv-tallWith books and movies, I don’t usually try to predict where a story might go, and to be honest I never expected to get analytical about a series I’ve only been a casual fan of before. However, many people who love fiction have their personal storytelling catnip, and mine is the theme of redemption. I can’t explain exactly what it is about redemption that moves me so, but it surely can’t be a coincidence that the last time I got an urge to write long in-depth speculations was after the sixth Harry Potter book and that ending, which made me certain that, despite all appearances to the contrary, there was some powerful story going on.

Contains spoilers about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, if you’re one of the ten people on the planet who haven’t seen it yet.

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Maleficent – Film Review

maleficent960I think it’s pretty telling that the only time this Disney reinvention of the old fairy tale truly soars is when it recreates the classic cursing scene, in which Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent comes uninvited to the christening of baby princess Aurora to bestow a terrible curse. Dressed in black, eyes ablaze, with her naturally exaggerated features made even more striking courtesy of make-up master Rick Baker, Jolie looks utterly fabulous and alive and she visibly revels in the mayhem and revenge Maleficent unleashes. If only the rest of this limp if beautiful movie felt as spirited.

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Baraka – Film Review

baraka-blue-ray_0-pageA striking and mesmerising documentary with no conventional narrative, Baraka presents a collection of sights and sounds from around the globe – mountains, places of worship, cities, wilderness – as a sort of lush travelogue, set alternately to tribal beats and rather New Age-y soundtrack.

The sights of the movie are not always beautiful, detouring at one point to the humanity’s darker places like the concentration camps and Cambodia’s killing fields, as well as sweatshops and overcrowded slums in South America and Asia. This is probably going to be the shortest film review I’ll ever do, because this movie is one to experience, rather than talk about. It’s an ambitious achievement that really leaves you in awe of the world’s sheer variety and splendour, and reminds me of the sadness I always feel at the thought of seeing only a tiny little sliver of the world in my lifetime. It’s a moving portrayal of faith and nature even if you’re an atheist like myself and find hippy-drippy sentiments maybe a tad cringey.

More images from the film:

Witness – Film Review

witnessWonderful Peter Weir film starring Harrison Ford that’s part thriller, part fish-out-of-water story about culture clash and part romance. While the thriller element is just okay if slickly made, it’s really there to explore an unusual setting and a growing connection between a man and a woman from two very different worlds. The only bad thing I could say about it is the dated 80s soundtrack, but it’s a small nitpick.

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The Piano Teacher – Film Review

pianoteacher_1130_430_90_s_c1Michael Haneke’s Hidden was one of those strange unsettling films with one truly shocking scene that lingers in your mind for a very long time, so I was curious to see more of his stuff. The Piano Teacher certainly ticks the controversial and shocking boxes, but I’m afraid I was less than impressed this time around.

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Arrival – Film Review

arrivalWARNING – contains spoilers

I don’t normally include spoilers in my reviews, but with this movie I wanted to elaborate more on why certain parts of it worked or didn’t work for me, and that’s impossible to do without revealing the film’s key moments. So don’t read this if you plan on seeing the movie.

The title refers to the arrival of strange extraterrestrial vessels over twelve seemingly random spots on the globe (including Australia, which left me feeling childishly pleased about it – we might be a relatively insignificant country of 25 million, but we’re included woooo). To find out the intentions of the aliens, the U.S. military recruits linguist Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), along with scientist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), who they hope can break through the colossal language barrier and communicate with these mysterious beings. They are allowed entry into the spacecraft at regular intervals, where they attempt to establish a common language with their hosts. Their efforts are mirrored by the other nations around the world, but as the fear of the unknown grows and the lines of communications shut down, it’s a matter of time before someone opens the fire.

The good stuff first I guess. Visually the movie is rather marvellous, shot mostly with elegant muted tones that create an atmosphere of unease and suspense, helped along by the moody score. The alien ships, which resemble a gigantic coffee bean sliced in half, are wonderfully strange and the sight of them hovering closely above the earth is eerie and awe-inspiring, bringing to mind the black monoliths from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The aliens themselves, squid-like creatures who communicate by spraying jets of black smoky substance which arranges itself into fluid circular patterns, are likewise truly otherworldly. It’s hard to portray a squid-like alien without inviting some degree of B-movie cheese, but this film manages it. I also liked the reliance on brain over brawn and the CGI-laden third act, and as someone fascinated by the languages I enjoyed watching Louise and Ian’s breakthroughs in deciphering the language that makes the Egyptian hieroglyphs look like piece of cake to solve. This process, as demonstrated by the scene where Louise takes off her space suit and attempts a more human, tactile way of introducing herself, is not just about cold data – it’s about real connection and understanding.

This is where I go into real spoiler territory. Read more

Lawrence of Arabia – Film Review

30arabia1-superjumboI wish I could have watched this movie at the cinema, or at least on one of those enormous TV screens they taunt you with at JB Hi-Fi, because I don’t think my TV did it justice. This is a big fat epic of a film, so epic in fact it actually has an official intermission in the middle of its nearly four-hour running time. It’s interesting that, while TV series binge-watching is a fairly normal thing nowadays, that kind of episodic viewing still doesn’t have the same feel as watching a very long feature film.

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Doctor Strange – Film Review

doctor-strange-1By and large, Marvel superhero movies always feel like eating candy floss to me: they’re fun and high on in-the-moment sugar hit, but they melt away from memory just as quickly and there’s really not much substance there, even in terms of big blockbuster substance. Doctor Strange is pretty much more candy floss, but at least it’s spiked with some weird and trippy substances, and the rich, inventive, mind-bending visuals do a lot to lift a standard cookie-cutter plot.

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