Thursday, September 30, 2010

Aborigine Musical "Bran Nue Dae"

In America, African-Americans were (and sometimes still are) treated like second-class citizens.
In Australia it is the Aborigines, the indigenous people of the islands of Australia and New South Wales, who lived happily before the white Europeans came along and made life miserable for them.
“Bran Neu Dae” is the modern Australian version of an American minstrel show, the minstrels being Aborigines.
Set in the late 1960s, “Bran Neu Day) (Brand New Day) is a politically-charged fable with music about an Aborigine boy who dares to stand up to the Colonial establishment. The story adapted from the songs and stage act of an Aboriginal band called Jimmy Chi and Knuckles and fashioned into a screenplay by Chi, Reg Cribb, and Rachel Perkins, who also directs. The movie has elements of road trip, coming-of-age and rebellion in a Wizard of Oz kind of fashion.
Willie (Rocky McKenzie) is a model son and student who lives with his mother in the Outback in the tiny town of Broome. Willie has never met his father, who he has been told is dead.
Willie is sweet on Rosie (Jessica Mauboy), a childhood friend who has blossomed into womanhood.
Rosie is pretty and very good singer, which has attracted the attention of Lester (Dan Sultan), the egotistical Caucasian leader of a band and the club he plays in.
Willie is such a good student he has been accepted into a strict Catholic prep school in the big city. The school is ruled by the tyrannical Father Benedictus (Geoffrey Rush), who treats his students with patronizing condescension.
When Willie endures all that he can, he decides to make a break for it and somehow make the 3,000-mile trip back home. Father Bend ictus is not about to let that happen, so he takes off in pursuit in his old Mercedes.
Early in his journey Willie meet an older Aborigine he calls Uncle Tadpole (Ernie Dingo).
Tadpole has a fondness for booze, but he feels protective of the boy and decides to help him on his quixotic journey. Also the way they hook up with a couple hippies in a ragtag VW bus, an Annie (Missy Higgins) and Slippery (Tom Budge) reluctantly join the quest.
“Bran Neu Dae” is old-fashioned and corny, with characters breaking into and dance at the drop of a hat.
You just know it will all lead to a big-finish production number, and so it does. Don’t be too surprised if you find yourself saying, “I’m an Aborigine too.”

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ben Affleck's Bloody Boston Baby

“The Town” is Ben Affleck’s baby. Affleck directs, co-wrote and stars in this gritty crime drama, set on the bad side of Boston in Charlestown, Mass.
Charlestown, referred to just as The Town by locals, is a one-square-mile breeding group for crime, specifically bank robbers.
Based on the novel “Prince of Thieves” by Chuck Hogan, “The Town” tells the story of Doug MacCray (Affleck) and his gang of tough townies. Jem (explosive Jeremy Renner from "Hurt Locker"), the meanest, toughest of the lot, took a fall for MacCray and has just gotten out of nine years in prison. If anything, the jail experience has made Jem more violent and reckless than ever.
“The Town” is a tense, suspense-filled series of daring bank heists, desperate escapes, and spectacular, vehicle-destroying chases.
Contrasting the ultra-violence is MacCray’s blossoming relationship with winsome Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall), a bank manager who was taken hostage by the masked desperadoes, but does not realize MacCray was one of them.
It comes as no surprise that as MacCray’s affection for Claire grows, so does a decision to renounce his life of crime and run away with Claire.
Sadly for MacCray one can’t just walk away from the Irish gang lords who have bought and controlled everyone for years.
“The Town” builds to a fever pitch just on the right side of ridiculous, but very satisfying.
Be warned it is a bloody, brutish tale, but well-told and with passion by the star and all his swaggering supporting cast.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Bittersweet Love Affair From France

“Mademoiselle Chambon” is an exquisite, bittersweet fable of forbidden love from France via writer-director Stephane Brize.
Based on a novel by Eric Holder, “Mlle Chambon” explores desire, discontentment and the consequences of following rash emotional and sexual impulses.
Jean (Vincent Lindon) is a solid, blue-collar Parisian citizen, married to loving and loyal Anne-Marie (Aure Atika) and father to bright, energetic Jeremy (Arthur Le Houerou).
Jean is a stone mason and all-around contractor. His son’s teacher, Veronique Chambon (Sandrine Kiberlain) invites Jean to lecture Jeremy’s classmates about his practical occupation.
Jean graciously accepts the assignment, and after Mlle Chambon thanks him, she asks him what she might do about a leaky window in her apartment.
This is one of those ah-ha moments, played with great subtlety and delicacy by Lindon and Kiberlain, who were once man and wife. Though nothing has been spoken out loud, we know Jean has already fallen under the spell of Mlle Chambon. Though the request is seemingly innocent, we know it is not, as we can see desire building in the limpid eyes of Veronique, who has had many affairs but never a long-term relationship.
Once a concert violinist, Veronique has been a drifter and a loner ever since she quit music. Jean agrees to install a new window in her house, and when he spots the violin she once played, he asks Veronique if she could play him a tune.
Veronique refuses at first, then acquiesces, only if she can play with her back turned, due to the extreme shyness that sabotaged her career.
The tune is an achingly romantic piece by Ferenc von Vecsey. Again without words, we know Jean is a goner. Their passion is sealed with a kiss. The next day she leaves a simple note: “Thinking of you.” Not long afterward Anne-Marie informs Jean she is pregnant.
There is a reason why forbidden love is called forbidden. It may be wonderfully exciting and invigorating, but it causes terrible pain for loved ones.
Jean is such a good guy he even washes the feet of his elderly father, who is having an 80th birthday party hosted by Anne-Marie. Recklessly, Jean invites Veronique to play her violin at the party. Equally recklessly Veronique agrees.
During the party Jean inexplicably flies off the handle at his wife, who wails, “What’s going on Jean? Where are you?”
Jean is lost in the wilderness of lust and passion, but Veronique calls his bluff when she tells him she has finally decided to settle down and stay at the school where she is.
Anyone who has been tangled in a triangular relationship will react with discomfort to Jean’s dilemma. Will he go with his heart or his head?
You’ll have to see this masterful little film to see the conclusion, but it is not as simple as you may think.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Love from a Distance and Gore Up Close

Drew Barrymore and Justin Long Retro Romantics in “Going the Distance”

By Skip Sheffield

Drew Barrymore and Justin Long are “Going the Distance” in the rather retro, reasonably pleasant romantic comedy of the same name.
“Distance” seems more authentic because Barrymore and Long were (and perhaps still are) an item when documentary film director Nanette Burstein was filming in New York and San Francisco. It doesn’t hurt that these are two of the most photogenic cities in America.
This movie is retro because Barrymore’s character, Erin, aspires to be a crusading newspaper reporter. For one thing, daily newspapers are quickly becoming a thing of the past. For another, it is mostly older people who still read them.
Yes, 31-year-old Erin is gung-ho on saving, or at least improving the world through the power of the press. She has an internship at the fictitious New York Sentinel and she hopes to go full-time.
Garret (Justin Long) works at a record label (another dying profession) and lives the bachelor life with two goofy roommates.
Erin and Garrett meet cute in a bar over a game of Centipede, a 1980s video game. They click immediately and wind up at Garrett’s and end up making out under a poster of Tom Cruise in “Top Gun” (1986).
Erin says up front she doesn’t want romantic entanglement, as she is going to grad school at Stanford in six weeks.
Of course they do become entangled and enjoy a whirlwind affair to the tune of 1980s song classics.
Erin can’t find a job in New York and Garrett is unwilling to relocate on the West Coast. So beings a long-distance relationship with all its trials and tribulations
Keeping the affair from getting too gloopy is a fine comic supporting cast including Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis as Garrett’s wacky roommates and Christina Applegate as Erin’s sarcastic older sister.
“Distance” is rated R mostly for content and coarse dialogue. Ultimately it has a soft heart for young lovers in love, and that’s what makes this idealist fantasy a perfect date movie.

Three stars

“Machete” Revels in Cartoon Violence, Gore

Fan boys and girls will love the outrageous “Machete.” Tea-Partiers and other conservatives will despise it.
“Machete” is a feature-length movie based on a single 90-second sight gag in Quinten Tarantino’s 2007 “Grindhouse.”
The title character, played by the menacing-looking Danny Trejo, prefers a blade to a gun, but he is adept at all kinds of weaponry, including his bare hands and gardening equipment.
Machete is a former Mexican Federale who is driven out of his country by an all-powerful drug lord Torrez, played by slimy, reptilian Steven Seagal.
Machete is stranded in a Texas border town with no papers and no money; in short an illegal immigrant.
The area is controlled by Von Stillman (Don Johnson, relishing the role of villain), who heads a group of ruthless vigilantes who will do anything, including murder, to stem the flow of illegal immigrants from Mexico.
Jeff Fahey is another American bad guy: Michael Benz, a crooked businessman who supports the equally corrupt right-wing Senator John McLaughlin (Robert Di Niro, also relishing his scene-chewing villain).
In this revenge fantasy by Robert Rodriguez (“Spy Kids") all the Americans are bad; bigoted, greedy, amoral, and all the Mexicans are good souls just looking for a better life.
Rodriguez doles out violence and sickening gore in equal measure with sexy babes. The list includes Michele Rodriguez as the resourceful, fearless taco girl who in reality runs an underground Mexican resistance group; Jessica Alba as an immigration officer with a sense of justice and fair play, and Lindsay Lohan, mocking her image as infant terrible as Michael Benz’s out-of-control daughter.
And then there is Cheech Marin as Machete’s pious brother, a Catholic priest who does not turn the other cheek.
Needless to say this debacle gets a richly-deserved R Rating. If the viewer realizes the whole thing is over-the-top satire about rigid American anti-immigration crusaders then it becomes a funny spectacle of cartoon violence and a clever reversing of stereotypes for ironic effect. If not, you’ll be outraged.

Two and a half stars