Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Film Review: Oranges and Sunshine

Oranges and Sunshine is an interesting, compelling film based on the true story of Maragaret Humphries and her response to hearing that millions of British children were shipped out to Australia and used as slave labor.

It's a shocking revelation that's very difficult to imagine.  Young children led to believe that their parents were dead and promised a sunnier life in Australia, when in truth their parents were very much alive, believing their child was dead.  Yes, the child was snatched from the parents.  They were not given voluntarily.

And that sunny life?  Well, it might be sunny in Australia, but the kids didn't enjoy that life there.  Most were abused and sent to manual labor.

The film delves into Margaret's (Emily Watson) battle with the government to bring attention to this issue and to reunite these people with their families.  Now adults, they have deep scars from what happened to them. 

Hugo Weaving and David Wenham star as two of the former children who were sent away and had to endure a brutal childhood.  Without their portrayals (especially Wenham's) I think the film would not have the impact it intended.  Otherwise, I felt like the details were glossed over a bit, telling us rather than showing us what happened.

I think the film is worth it just to watch Len (Wenham) as he opens up about his past, and to see his interaction with Margaret and how their friendship evolves in the film.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Film Review: Margin Call

This was overall an enjoyable film.  It had a sometimes realistic feel to it, and a sometimes comedic, farcical nature to it.  It was difficult at times to tell if they were taking themselves seriously or not, but that didn't bother me as much as you'd think it might.  I guess it's because my day job is in the corporate world, and my company has had its share of lay-offs.  So I found myself connecting to both aspects of this film quite nicely.

What impressed me about this film was how they tackled the problem they were facing.  I really liked how they spent all night in meetings discussing the issue and working toward a resolution.  It felt very realistic to me.  For some reason I had expected it to drag over a few days, but it didn't.  The sense of urgency was strong, the attitudes of management was amusing and had a touch of realism to it.

Another interesting aspect involved a couple of the characters making accusations along the lines of "I told you about this," or "I warned you this would happen."  No one in the film wanted to broach that subject, which was disappointing for me, because I would have loved to have known what they had said back then, but we the audience were more like flies on the wall in this film.  There were no flashbacks, no time spent in character development.  We were witnessing a melt down as it was happening, and it made it feel so realistic.  I wanted more, but I knew that this wasn't the intent of this film.

I was amazed at the cast, especially those actors who only were in one or two scenes.  This shows how strong the team was behind this film that would cause some name actors to take bit parts.  They're not minor, forgettable roles by any means, but they are only in a couple of scenes. 

I have nothing more to say without giving the plot away except to highly recommend this film.

Monday, October 17, 2011

DVD Review: Bridesmaids

Those who read this blog should have a sense right now that this really isn't my kind of film.  I really don't care for crude humor, partly because it's easy and predictable (and not to mention disgusting).

Many people compared this film to The Hangover, and while I probably will never see that film, I can find a better comparison.  How about a prolonged Saturday Night Live sketch.  This is what it felt like.

Some of the scenes were very familiar to me, having seen several in the TV ads and trailers, while others have been played out before either by the cast of SNL or by another show some 10-20 years before.  It was as if Kristin Wiig took a collection of sketches she wrote involving one character and linked them to this one theme and tossed them into this film.  Or maybe, as suggested by Leonard Maltin, the director just told the cast to improvise and this is what we have.

I'm not a fan of Murphy's Law films.  The idea of "whatever can go wrong will for a laugh" for 2 hours doesn't appeal to me.  I can only watch that in small doses and even then I can't wait for the resolution

I like my comedies to have some substance and pacing.  Sadly this one didn't.  Surely it was enough to have the British woman take advantage of her tourist visa to milk her stay in the US, but no....  Let's make her completely idiotic on top of that (calling her dim-witted would have been too kind).

The dueling microphones at the engagement party had a familiar ring to it, as did the over-medicated, frightened airline passenger who thinks that wearing sunglasses will hide the fact that they're sneaking back into first class again.

There was also the predictability that the lead would fall on her face in front of her competition on multiple occasions... but really?  A cabin retreat for a bachelorette party?  Really?  Is she really not of this century?

I do know that many people loved this film, so I know I'm in the minority on this one.  Hey, I didn't care for Wedding Crashers or Sweetest Thing either.  So tells you something about me.

Short Film Review: God of Love

This Academy Award winning short film is a treat.  Luke Matheny is Ray, a lounge singer who pines for his drummer, Kelly, but she has eyes on his best friend and guitarist, Fozzie.

Fozzie is loyal to Ray and won't give Kelly the time of day.  Each night for a year Ray prays to God to have Kelly fall for him.

Without giving too much away, Ray recieves what he perceives is an answer to his prayers, but will it work?

One thing I loved about this film is that while Fozzie insists he's not interested in Kelly, he knows more about her likes and dislikes than Ray does.

And what's with the Amish decorations?  Why Amish? LOL!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Film Review: Martha Marcy May Marlene

When I first heard the title of this film I thought I'll never get it right, but once I heard the reasoning for the names and saw them within the context of the film, it became quite memorable.  This film is also very memorable and the subject matter resonates.

Despite dragging in parts, I found the film interesting.  The characters are all rich and provide insight without explanation.  Martha (who is also Marcy May and Marlene) is an escapee from a cult who has to not only adapt to society, but also struggle with the memories of what she thought was a loving, giving environment, while trying to deal with the shaky relationship she has with her estranged sister and brother-in-law.

What's interesting about this film is that neither world seems to work for Martha.  Her real family is distant, strict and not compassionate enough for her needs.  Her sister wasn't around much when Martha was a child, so it's easy to see why Martha doesn't feel any love for her.  However, despite the fact that the cult life puzzled her at times, she accepted what she was led to believe was love.  If the leader, Patrick, did something that would be considered alarming in the real world, Martha (called Marcy May by the cultists) is told that it's all about existing and being and loving.

At times I wondered why she left the cult.  I could see what was wrong with her life in the cult, but her acceptance of the lifestyle made it seem idyllic vs her sister's world.  I knew at some point something had to happen that led to her running away, and we are soon shown what it is.  And soon both world seem to merge, and Martha has trouble separating reality from memory.

Or is it reality?

Elizabeth Olsen has proven herself a worthy actress who has managed to rise above the label of "the younger sister of the Olsen Twins".  She does a great job of evoking emotion by not saying a word.

John Hawkes is great as Patrick.  I liked him in Winter's Bone.  The rest of the cast is terrific.