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Stoker Chan-wook Park, Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman, Dermot Mulroney, Jacki Weaver, Lucas Till, Alden Ehrenreich, Phyllis Somerville, Ralph Brown,

Stoker: when a young girl’s close father dies, his mysterious brother appears – a charming, yet mysterious character that she slowly becomes besotted with. Being a ChanWook Park movie, this has his stamp all over it – meticulous direction and framing, packed with striking, bold, elegant, and often haunting visuals. It’s a richly textured film, full of vivid colours, fabrics, designs, and patterns – ultra-visual cinema. Story-wise, it’s a relatively simple three-hander, focusing on layered and complex characters – that unravel, and become more intertwined as the events unfold. Perhaps because it’s a coming-of-age movie, it sticks out as being very level compared to previous works, shying away from the drama and (sensational) gore that director is used to providing, instead coming over as delayed intensity. Written by an actor, and directed by one of the world’s greatest – Stoker is a unique beast where the Korean director appears to be anticipating any ‘lost in translation’ moments from the script, by emphasizing the focus the universal visuals – you could watch this in any language and still make full sense of it. An immersive, throwback Hitchcockian thriller.

Score: 7.5/10

Stoker Chan-wook Park, Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman, Dermot Mulroney, Jacki Weaver, Lucas Till, Alden Ehrenreich, Phyllis Somerville, Ralph Brown

Silver Linings Playbook: after a mental breakdown and bi-polar diagnosis, Pat Solitano strikes up a relationship with an equally challenged family friend. STOP PRESS! HOLD THE PHONE! Someone somewhere managed to find a very good performance in Robert De Niro, how the hell did they do it? Both leads are also way above what’s required and expected from ‘rom-com’ standards, and both deliver solid, believable, performances as afflicted people. The story’s engaging and interesting, right up until the final act where it runs through the entire checklist for clichéd movie endings. In saying that, you don’t really grudge the ending as the laugh-count in the first two-thirds of the film was ridiculously high (again) compared to what you usually get in a rom-com. The only thing that kept pinching me was that both leads are ridiculously good-looking Hollywood A-listers, centered around an interesting, unconventional relationship – those two roles could have been brilliant breakthrough fodder for unknowns, but in a way, they still are eye-opening performances, and you wouldn’t want to change the casting of Cooper or Lawrence. Silver Linings Playbook is a surprisingly funny and enjoyable quirky rom-com.

Score: 7/10

Animal Kingdom: Mid-budget Australian crime film focuses on one family and their ongoing struggle against the Melbourne police department. Probably more at home on TV than the big screen, there’s a few misfires that lead this high-potential film astray. The single biggest mistake was that it could have been an epic story, but the director forces it down the arthouse route, and it just didn’t work for me. Other faux pas’ were that it focuses on the wrong characters, honing in on the most silent and blank-faced kid; the music was so distracting – terrible psychological synths turned up to 11 that ironically drown out any ambience; moreover, it’s to bleak, grim and nihilistic – making it a difficult story to watch. What saved this from obscurity was the fantastic cast, some of whom you completely invest in: the mother and eldest son are two of the most heinous characters you’ll see this year and you even end up rooting for the wayward brothers; although he’s good, the main actor is one of the weakest in the film. Fiercely over-hyped, and at almost two hours, Animal Kingdom is dragged out at a pace that cripples the movie and really fails to engage. While it’s not in the same league as Romper Stomper and Chopper it will have the same effect in bumping much of the little known actors up to a bigger stage.

Score: 3/10