Wild Tales movie review

Featuring: Simón Ricardo Darín, Mauricio Oscar Martínez, Diego Iturralde, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Romina Érica Rivas, Rita Cortese, Julieta Zylberberg, Salgado Darío Grandinetti, Helena María Onetto, Victoria Nancy Dupláa
Writer/ Director: Damián Szifron
Movie website: www.spanishfilmfestival.com/films/wild-tales
Australian release date: Wed, May 6 (closing night of Spanish Film Festival, Cinema Paradiso, Perth)

Reviewer: rolanstein
Verdict: Brilliantly executed comedy of catharsis – a wonderfully fresh, hugely enjoyable blast of a cinema experience.

Perthites, take note: the 2015 Spanish Film Festival is on at Cinema Paradiso from 23 April to 6 May. There were some tremendous movies in last year’s program, including Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed – a little gem that I reviewed here. There’s another absolute must-see this year, which I was fortunate to catch at a preview screening.

I refer to the Oscar nominated and Almodovar produced Argentinian black comedy Wild Tales, which has been chosen for this year’s Closing Night premiere screening – talk about finishing with a bang! If this cracker is any indication of the quality of the rest of the Festival offerings, Olé, Olé, Olé!

Comprising six short tales of revenge, the film opens with a now controversial prologue that has copped a backlash of publicity post the Germanwings pilot suicide tragedy, and serves notice that audiences are, indeed, in for a wild ride.

The stories are often shocking, often grotesquely violent, yet somehow also laugh-out-loud funny. You’re either cacking yourself, clenching with tension, or bug-eyed with horror fascination – sometimes all of the above simultaneously!

Covering a wide range of situations and characters, the tales are not related except in the common theme of revenge emanating from injustice. There’s an aggrieved pilot with a master plan to get even, a road rage incident that gets way out of control and devolves into farcical but hilarious splatter slapstick, a wealthy father who tries to buy his son’s way out of doing time for a fatal road accident, an office worker who reaches the end of his tether wrangling over parking fines with petty-minded and regulation-touting clerks, an unlikely vigilante who strikes back against a gangster bully, and a wedding that erupts into a raging war of get-even between bride and groom…

Everything works. The cinematography, the music, the stories, the characters. The narratives are uniformly brilliantly structured, and pushed to full potential by superb performances. The actors are perfectly tuned into the rage that informs the tales, which is key to their success.

This is comedy of catharsis, gloriously liberated from the straitjacket of political correctness. Who in the anguish of injustice has not yearned to just let go and strike back at the perpetrator, bypassing social restraints and conditioning and damn the consequences? There is ecstasy in the primal moment, ecstasy and lunacy and outrage. All that is ingeniously captured here, coated in an irresistible sense of the ridiculous with a pure emotional truth within that makes it OK to laugh your arse off, however socially unacceptable – or criminal! – the retaliatory action of the aggrieved.

This is a wonderfully fresh, hugely enjoyable blast of a cinema experience. Wild Tales is set for wider release immediately after the Festival, but why wait? Count down to closing night, then run, don’t walk.

For other Boomtown Rap movie reviews, see Movie Review Archives

The Longest Ride movie review

Featuring: Scott Eastwood, Britt Robertson, Alan Alda, Jack Huston, Oona Chaplin
Director: George Tillman Jr.
Screenwriters: Craig Bolotin, adapted from the novel by Nicholas Sparks
Movie website: www.foxmovies.com/movies/the-longest-ride
Australian release date: Thur 9 April

Reviewer: rolanstein
Verdict: Chick flick fans get the goods served up. Everyone else, stay away.

A bit of a coup, this – three of the cast have ancestral claims to Hollywood royalty: Oona Chaplin (grandaughter of Charlie), Scott Eastwood (Clint’s boy) and Jack Huston (nephew of John’s daughter, Anjelica). While there’s nothing on show here to suggest any of them are destined to attain the status of their forebears, the young bluebloods acquit themselves well enough – as far as fairy floss like this will allow, at least.

This is MillsnBoone/chick flick territory; hence, the story is formulaic. Devotees of these sorts of genre pieces have certain expectations. Why risk alienating the target market by not serving up the goods they’re paying for?

So, we have a hunky male lead – blue-eyed, narrow-hipped, boot-jeans-and-flannel-wearing rodeo cowboy Luke (Scott) – and a sorta-hard-to-get pretty babe, Sophia (Britt Robertson), just about to complete her college stint in North Carolina. Unlike her giggly wiggly sorority sisters, she is not into cowboys, and resists Luke’s initial advances, but she just can’t hold out against his old-fashioned romancin’ ways (and buff bod, honed to bedroom perfection by them buckin’ bulls). Naturally, there’s an obstacle to their happy-ever-after future together: diverging career paths in awkwardly distant geographical locations. Luke wants to be the best bull-rider in the land and to maintain he and Ma in their family ranch, while Sophia has a dream job lined up in New York’s art world. The poor dears – what to do?

Enter wise old man Ira (Alan Alda), whom the young lovers rescue from a car crash on the way home from a dream date, along with a cache of love letters to his now deceased wife. When Sophia takes to reading these aloud at the old man’s bedside to comfort him, they function as a device (clichéd and clunky) to interweave a secondary love story – that of Ira and his wife Ruth (Oona) – into the primary one. It’s a bit of a shame that Ira and Ruth’s story, which spans WW2 to the booming 50s of an idealised America and beyond, has more going for it dramatically than Luke and Sophia’s. Most importantly, though, in narrative terms, there’s a vital message to be gleaned from Ira’s tale that is directly applicable to Luke and Sophia (and indeed, to humankind one and all, God bless us): that love requires sacrifice if you’re in it for the longest ride. Awww.

It’s a lesson that Luke takes some time to learn. When he does, Ira has another surprise in store for he and his gal – one that is beyond far-fetched, but takes the story to its inevitable conclusion.

I confess, though it may come as a mild shock, that I am not partial to the genus chickus flickus. That said, I imagine The Longest Ride will hit the target demographic close to the buckin’ bullseye (sorry). All the essential ingredients of the genre are in the mix.

Further, author Nicholas Sparks manages to get all the pieces of his narrative jigsaw to fit, albeit without paying any heed to real world credibility – a bit like the ugly stepsisters cutting off their toes to fit their feet into the glass slipper in the German version of Cinderella. Still, we’re in the realm of fairy tale here, so fair suck of the sarsaparilla bottle.

And there is eye candy for both boy and gal viewers, although the latter fare much better in this respect. The cameras keep travelling lasciviously over Clint’s lad’s buff and fetchingly battle-scarred bod, apparently to knee-trembling effect. One female viewer at the preview screening responded to a teasing glimpse of stripped-off Scotty’s arse with an apparently involuntary moan that had the cinema tittering, and prompted a reviewer pal next to me to mutter “somebody needs some alone time.” That diversion was the high point of the evening (ta Dave).

Oh, and the bull riding scenes are terrific – an oasis of graphically savage and magnificently shot realism in a desert of sugar.

For other Boomtown Rap movie reviews, see Movie Review Archives

While We’re Young movie review

Featuring: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried, Charles Grodin (Lesley – father in law), Adam Horoviz (Fletcher)
Writer/Director: Noah Baumbach

Movie website: while-were-young.com/
Australian release date: Thur 16 April

Reviewers’ verdicts:
rolanstein: A funny, absorbing and thought-provoking contemporary intergenerational comedy.
Karen: Funny and full of ideas that will resonate with people of all ages.

Review 1: (rolanstein)
Going by the trailer and promo blurb, the premise of this latest feature from director Noah Baumbach is dodgy, to say the least: a childless New York couple in their mid-forties begin hanging out with Gen Y “hipsters” (involuntary sneer) and get their mojo back. So, silly-old-fartdom now includes Xers as well as Boomers (hawk, spit-tooh), wisdom and inspirational living being the exclusive repository of the young – is that it?

Shit no! This is contemporary intergenerational comedy at its finest, and anything but simplistic or predictable. In fact, there’s so much going on here, it’s a challenge to get a handle on it all in a single viewing. Continue reading

Mommy movie review

Featuring: Anne Dorval, Suzanne Clément, Antoine Olivier Pilon
Screenwriter/Director: Xavier Dolan
Movie Website: mommythemovie.com/#/trailer

2014-15 Lotterywest Perth Film Festival season dates:
Somerville: 6-12 April, 7.30pm

Reviewer: rolanstein
Verdict: Startlingly original, discordant and confronting, this is a brilliantly performed and crafted pressure-cooker of a movie with real edge.

Many filmmakers strive for originality and edge, but few truly break new ground or push into confronting territory without resorting to try-hard or obvious shock tactics. Part of the problem is the striving. Being effortfully “different” for the sake of it is a wank, serving the artist’s ego rather than the work itself. The only originality that is worth its name is that which is inevitable, that emerges as a natural expression from the mysterious wanderings of the creative process, and is then honed and shaped through disciplined and judicious crafting to fit the work and present it in optimal form.

In these terms, Mommy is truly original, and genuinely edgy. The 1:1 aspect ratio in which most of the film is shot is unusual and appropriate, cramming the characters (and audience) into a confined space that amplifies the already noisy, almost unrelenting and often confronting intensity of the drama. In rare moments of relief, when the characters escape the pressure cooker confines of their troubled domestic setting, either physically (eg: when skateboarding) or through flights of imagination (eg: rose-coloured dreaming of a longed-for but impossible future), the aspect widens and the screen opens up. The relief is short-lived: reversion to the 1:1 aspect feels like a vice closing. Continue reading

Phoenix movie review

Featuring: Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Nina Kunzendorf
Director: Christian Petzold
Screenwriters: Christian Petzold, Harun Farocki; adapted from Hubert Monteilhet’s novel Le Retour des Cendres
Movie Website: www.phoenix-der-film.de/

2014-15 Lotterywest Perth Film Festival season dates:
Somerville: 30 March-5 April, 7.30pm
Joondalup Pines: 7-12 April, 7.30pm

Reviewer: rolanstein
Verdict: Some obvious credibility issues, but the film amounts to much more than the narrative, culminating in an emotional and dramatic powerhouse of a conclusion.

Phoenix director Christian Petzold’s previous film Barbara, set in pre-unification East Germany, was one of the best movies of the 2013-14 Perth International Film Festival. Phoenix is atmospherically and thematically similar, featuring a grim setting – in this case, a decimated post-war Berlin – and a female lead character (again played by the superb Nina Hoss) who finds a way to transcend her bleak circumstances by reclaiming her dignity and humanity against oppressive odds. Continue reading