Summary: Falling in love is easy, getting out of it is hard. Our hero, Josh ﬁnds himself ‘LoveStuck’ between his best friend, his ex-girlfriend and the new girl he is about to move in with. As a lowly clerk working with the public service in Canberra, Josh is used to procrastination, but his fear of con*ict and knack for stretching the truth gets him into trouble with the women that he loves.
Australian Cinema Release Date: 24th August 2017
Australian DVD Release Date: TBA
Director: Murray Fahey
Cast: Rik Brown (Josh), Fenella Edwards (Horatio), Murray Fahey (Polonius), Cathy Hagarty (Cath), Malcolm Irvin (Rosencraztz), Ali Little (Barnardo), Jenny Lovell (Gertude), Heady Manders (Voltemand), Gabby Millgate (Bag Lady Ophelia), Glen Morrison (Laertes), Robert Morrison (Guilderstein), Rama Nicolas (Kate), Emma Reid (Hecuba), Patti Stiles (Trish), Geoff Wallace (Claudius)
Runtime: 73 mins
OUR LOVESTUCK REVIEWS & RATINGS:
The Australian film industry has been throwing up some extremely experimental films over the past few years – from one-shot action films through to filmed theatre productions. Well now comes Lovestuck – a completely improvised film from director Murray Fahey (Cubbyhouse, Dags). Not only does the film toss up a story that keeps you guessing but also gives you a look behind the scenes of what goes into making an improvised film at the same time.
The film centres around Josh (Rik Brown – Utopia, Dinner For Three) a man who is struggling with his feelings with three woman – his ex Kate (Rama Nicolas – Little Solider, The Mutant Way), his current girlfriend Cath (Cathy Hagarty - newcomer) and his best friend Trish (Patti Stiles – Neighbours, Stingers). On one disastrous day he meets with Kate to hand back some of her things – which then sets him on a journey to find a pen that she once gave him – while meanwhile Cath and Tess meet for the first time. The result is him having to make a decision about the three woman if he has any chance of moving on at all.
The danger of doing an experimental film like Lovestuck is that sometimes the experiment itself can get in the way of the story or can distract the audience from getting immersed in the film. Strangely, given that the film also shows the audience what is happening behind the scenes at times, neither happens here. The actors at hand – especially Rik Brown – are so good at the improvisation that you forget that you are watching a film that never technically had a script. The scenes flow together well and while there are some scenes that perhaps didn’t need to be there, most of the scenes featuring the main four characters tie in together well and do raise the suspense of who Josh will chose at the end… something that director Murray Fahey let Rik Brown decide as part of the improvisation.
The improvisation of the film does allow for the tone of the film to switch at times which gives Lovestuck a really unique feel. From comedic moments when Josh runs into Cath outside a massage parlour and tries to explain that he didn’t get one of ‘those’ massages right through to more dramatic scenes like Cath and Trish meeting for the first time this is a film that at one moment feels like an episode of Seinfeld one moment and the latest romance drama the next. Even the Hamlet Hip-Hop scene which had the potential of feeling out of place in the film works well because as an audience member you find yourself sitting there thinking ‘do they have the pen or not?’
The key to this film working though was the cast and to Fahey and his casting assistant’s credit they get this 100% right. Rik Brown carries the film throughout and with the tone changes that is no easy feat. From moments of complete awkwardness right through to almost slapstick comedy he delivers each time while Nicolas, Hagarty and Stiles also amazing throughout the film. Not once does there seem to be a moment where they hesitate when they think of what to say next and to be able to deliver improv lines so naturally means they deserve high credit… it is no easy feat.
Lovestuck just shows what you can create when you get together a creative team of people. While an improvised movie sounds like it shouldn’t work this one does to the point where you really do care which decision Josh makes. Worth checking out if you like your cinema a little left of centre.
Average Subculture Rating (out of 5):
IMDB Rating: N/A
Other Subculture Entertainment Lovestuck Reviews: Nil
Summary: Gru meets his long-lost charming, cheerful, and more successful twin brother Dru who wants to team up with him for one last criminal heist.
Australian Cinema Release Date: 15th June 2017
Australian DVD Release Date: 20th September 2017
Director: Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin, Eric Guillon
Screenwriter: Ken Daurio, Cinco Paul
Cast: Julie Andrews (Gru’s Mom (voice)), Michael Beattie (The Scar Faced Man/TMZ Announcer (voice)), Russell Brand (Dr. Nefario (voice)), Steve Carell (Gru/Dru (voice)), Adrian Ciscato (Niko (voice)), Pierre Coffin (Mel/The Minions (voice)), Steve Coogan (Silas (voice)), Miranda Cosgrove (Margo (voice)), Dana Gaier (Edith (voice)), Andy Nyman (Clive (voice)), Trey Parker (Balthazar Bratt (voice)), Nev Scharrel (Agnes (voice)), Jenny Slate (Valerie Da Vinci (voice)), Kristen Wiig (Lucy Wilde (voice)),
Runtime: 90 mins
OUR DESPICABLE ME 3 REVIEWS & RATINGS:
If you’ve got kids then you’ve certainly heard of the Despicable Me franchise. What a lot of people don’t realise is that while Despicable Me has become one of the most popular film franchises amongst families it also changed the entire animated film game. There was once a time when Pixar ruled that market but the arrival of the original Despicable Me saw a new challenger enter the ring and that challenger took it straight up to Pixar blowing them out of the water.
This new Despicable Me movie is technically the fourth film in the franchise (three Despicable Mefilms and one Minions films) and shows that there is certainly still a lot of life left in these films as the creative team behind it has once again found new ways to breathe new life into it and keep it interesting.
This new film sees Gru (Steve Carrell) now firmly entrenched as Lucy’s (Kristen Wiig) life and work partner. And while Lucy is having trouble coming to terms being a mother to Margo (Miranda Cosgrove – School Of Rock, Drake & Josh), Edith (Dana Gaier – 30 Rock, The Icecream Truck) and Agnes (Nev Scharrel – Fun Size Horror: Volume One, Clippings) Gru is slowly getting used to now taking down villains instead of being one… but then even he fails the test when Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker – ) steals one of the world’s largest diamonds.
The resulting stuff-up sees both Gru and Lucy fired from their jobs and while they are soul-searching at what they should do next with their lives Gru learns that he has a twin brother. Upon getting to know his brother Gru learns more and more about his life and soon finds himself wondering if turning his back on being a villain was really such a wise decision, especially when his beloved Minions leave him and start looking for greener pastures elsewhere.
Like the films before it in the franchise Despicable Me 3 has some great elements of humour that will have the whole family laughing while also touching on some very deep issues that many families have to come to grips with in everyday life – the storyline of Lucy trying to learn how to be a mother to the three girls is told in a way that many people could relate to. Likewise, the storyline of Agnes having to learn things such as unicorns not being real is something that every kid has to face at some time.
On the flipside, the film never loses site of the fact that it is also supposed to make families laugh. This is achieved in a number of different ways by the team of screenwriters behind the film, from the usual slapstick comedy of Gru and co getting hurt right through to the creativeness of the new villain – Balthazar Bratt. While the back story of being a childhood star may go right over the head of kids watching the film the great ‘music and dance battles’ that he is involved in certainly won’t. Credit needs to be paid on how creative they have been with this villain, Bratt actually ends up being memorable than any of the baddies Marvel have created recently.
Having praised the screenwriters for making Despicable Me 3 so funny I also have to point out that the film also lacks a little from the fact that the Minions don’t have such a big role this time around. Yes the Minions are around, and yes they do have their own little storyline, mainly about them leaving Gru, but that story almost feels tacked on and the film really does feel like it is lacking any brilliant ‘banana’ moments like we have had in the past… let’s hope instead that we get another Minions film sometime soon.
There is an air of difference around Despicable Me 3 to all the films in the series but this is a film that is going to be lapped up by those that have grown up watching the franchise. The film does have its laugh-out-loud moments and also contains some valuable life lessons. Yes, Gru is back and once again he is on a winner!
Average Subculture Rating (out of 5):
Other Subculture Entertainment Despicable Me 3 Reviews: You can listen to Dave’s Despicable Me 3 review on the 15/06/2017 episode of That’s Entertainment.
Summary: A quiet observation of the triumphs and defeats of daily life, along with the poetry evident in its smallest details.
Australian Cinema Release Date: 22nd December 2016
Australian DVD Release Date: TBA
Country: United States, Germany, France
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Screenwriter: Jim Jarmusch
Cast: Adam Driver (Paterson), Golshifteh Farahani (Laura), Chasten Harmon (Marie), William Jackson Harper (Everitt), Frank Harts (Luis), Barry Shabaka Henley (Doc), Rizwan Manji (Donny), Brian McCarthy (Jimmy), Method Man (himself), Nellie (Marvin), Trevor Parham (Sam), Troy T. Parham (Dave)
Runtime: 118 mins
OUR PATERSON REVIEWS & RATINGS:
Film director Jim Jarmusch’s work isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. His films are often described by the average cinema goer as ‘hard to get’ and you can always guarantee that his films are going to make you think. His last film, Only Lovers Left Alive,may have been a vampire movie… but even that was a flick with a difference. Now comes one of Jarmusch’s most cinema-friendly films, Paterson… but even this is going to have to you thinking deeply long after you leave the cinema.
Paterson tells a simple tale. It follows the lives of Paterson (Adam Driver – Star Wars: The Force Awakens), a poet who spends his days working as a bus driver, and his partner Laura (Golshifteh Farahani –Body Of Lies) who dreams drift from being a cup-cake mogul to starting a country music career. Ironically they live in Paterson, New Jersey and for the most part, the film follows Paterson’s regular day of going to work, listening to his passenger’s conversations, writing poetry, walking his dog and visiting his local bar.
As you can ascertain from the film’s synopsis Paterson is one of those films where very little happens plot-wise yet while you are watching the movie you never find yourself getting bored. Jarmusch is a talented enough storyteller to know that you can get away with very little plot if you fill your film with enough interesting characters to hold your audience’s interest. Here, Jarmusch does that in bucket loads. While his life may be a little boring Paterson himself is a character that you find yourself rooting for because he is such a nice character and completely unaware of what a great poet he is.
The secondary source of interest for the audience in Paterson is the interesting characters that Jarmusch chooses to have interact with Paterson. Whether it be passengers such as two men who know nothing about women, teenage anarchists or those that chat to Paterson in his local bar – a barman obsessed with celebrities who lived in Paterson, Doc (Barry Shabaka Henley – Collateral) or Everett (William Jackson Harper – True Story) and Marie (Chasten Harmon – Elementary) a young couple in disarray, these characters each bring something unique to the story at hand.
Part of what makes Paterson such an interesting film is you never really know what Jarmusch is setting his audience up for. Is he planning on giving Paterson that one moment when he meets the right person who can help launch his career as a poet or even deliver the time when he finally realises that he does, in fact, have a talent that the world deserves to hear. Then, of course, the darker side of your imagination wonders whether or not Jarmusch is planning on putting his characters through something traumatic that will change their lives forever.
Jarmusch’s writing also allows for some decent performances from his leads. Fans of Adam Driver will quickly tell you that he is capable of more than what we saw in his recent performance in The Force Awakens. Serious movie fans will know that over the years Driver has delivered some powerful performances in serious films like What If, Midnight Specialand Inside Llewyn Davis, and once again he delivers the goods here as he portrays the very melancholy Paterson. This film also introduces most fans to a bright, new star in Golshifteh Farahani. This fresh face shows pure talent as she plays the free-spirited Laura and you get a real feeling that she is somebody that we are going to see a lot of in the near future.
If you go into Paterson expecting a high-octane film, then you will be sorely disappointed. Instead, once again Jim Jarmusch has created an interesting film that is largely a character study of two everyday people. This is a film that will have you debating what Jarmusch is trying to say with the film and will also have you seeing Adam Driver as a potential Oscar nominee.
Average Subculture Rating (out of 5):
Other Subculture Entertainment Paterson Reviews: Nil
Summary: An iconic Australian story of family, friendship and adventure, between a young boy and a scrappy one-of-a-kind dog that would grow up to become an Australian legend.
Australian Cinema Release Date: 26th December 2016
Australian DVD Release Date: TBA
Director: Kriv Stenders
Screenwriter: Daniel Taplitz
Cast: Josie Alec (Abby), Caitlin Berestford-Ord (Catherine), Syd Brisbane (Big John), Bryan Brown (Grandpa), Kee Chan (Jimmy Umbrella), Justine Clarke (Diane Carter), Thomas Cocquerel (Stemple), Jon Doust (McLeod), Alla Hand (Gilliam Shaw), Jason Isaacs (Michael Carter), John Jarratt (Lang Hangcock), Hanna Mangan Laurence (Betty), Steve Le Marquand (Little John), Winta McGrath (Nicholas Carter), Zen McGrath (Theo Carter), Levi Miller (Mick), Kelton Pell (Durack), Igor Sas (Dr. Samuel), Calen Tassone (Taylor Pete)
Runtime: 88 mins
OUR RED DOG: TRUE BLUE REVIEWS & RATINGS:
Nobody ever expected the original Red Dog film to go onto the greatness that it did when it was released back in 2011. Somehow the little Aussie family film showed the world that the Australian film industry wasn’t dead. While the industry had seen many Aussie filmmakers try the comedy vein, it seems it was the family comedy vein that still had life in it. The film grossed over $21 million in Australia alone.
Of course, not surprisingly word of a Red Dog sequel started to seep through while the first film was still raking in money at the box office. The only man who didn’t seem interested in the concept was the director Kriv Stenders (Boxing Day) who was already busy on his next project – the cult film Kill Me Three Times starring Simon Pegg. Along the way, though something changed and now five years later we find ourselves sitting down to watch a prequel to the original – Red Dog: True Blue.
There is little wonder that Stenders was nervous about making another Red Dog film, a dud could tarnish the legacy that the first left behind. Luckily though Stenders once again teamed up with screenwriter Daniel Taplitz (Chaos Theory) and together the two men came up with a film that is different enough from the original film to give it its own identity, but not different enough to alienate fans of the first in the series.
This second film is told through the eyes of a Perth father Michael Carter (Jason Isaacs – Black Hawk Down) who after watching the original Red Dog movie in the cinema recounts the story of how he was actually the original owner of Red… or Blue as he was called back then. His story tells of his younger self (Levi Miller – Pan) being forced to leave home because of his mentally unstable mother and moving to outback Western Australia where he lived with his grandfather (Bryan Brown – Australia). On a cattle station.
The story sees Mick meet Blue and tells of the adventures that they had together including Mick falling in love for the first time, with his tutor the young and beautiful Betty (Hanna Mangan Laurence – Acolytes).
Fans of the original film will see very early on that Stenders and Taplitz are onto a winning formula when they see the creative way that leads to Michael Carter telling his story. While it seems a little strange for the film to be referencing the first film so openly, but at that same time it so creative that you can’t help but applaud at the pure genius act that the two men have managed to deliver.
While Red Dog: True Blue is creative it does lack a little of the emotion that we felt from the first film. I’m man enough to admit that I teared up twice during Red Dog, but here Stenders and co takes the film in a completely different direction, this time the film is a pure coming of age story that sees a young boy take his dog with him on the start of life’s journey. While the film does also have a few moments that are likely to make you chuckle it doesn’t have anywhere near as many comedic moments as the first movie either.
Those that benefit from Stenders work here is the cast. Levi Miller is almost unrecognisable as the younger version of Mick and he settles into the period style of the film well. It is great to see Hanna Mangan Laurence back on the big screen and hopefully, we see her there again soon while as usual Bryan Brown leads the way with a mature performance as he leads the cast despite seemingly being in auto-pilot for most of the film. The big scene stealer here though is John Jarratt (Wolf Creek) who has a cameo as mining magnate Lang Hancock… and boy is it a cameo to remember.
Red Dog: True Blue is a smooth, enjoyable ride for the whole family. It might not reach the heights that the first film did but it is still a film that holds its own and reminds audiences just how fun it still can be to watch a coming-of-age story. The fact that it is being released on Boxing Day makes it the perfect family cinema outing this holiday season.
Average Subculture Rating (out of 5):
IMDB Rating: No rating available.
Other Subculture Entertainment Red Dog: True Blue Reviews: Dave Griffiths broadcast a Red Dog: True Blue on 2UE’s That’s Entertainment on the 8th December, 2016.
Summary: A black comedy set during the aftermath of the Cronulla riots, it is the story of two carloads of hotheads from both sides of the fight destined to collide.
Australian Cinema Release Date: 11th August 2016
Australian DVD Release Date: TBA
Director: Abe Forsythe
Screenwriter: Abe Forsythe
Cast: Fayssal Bazzi (D-Mac), Josef Ber (Sgt.Bryce Halliday), Chris Bunton (Evan), Ruby Burke (Destiny), Suppakorn Chuwongwut (Nutt), Arka Das (Steve), Michael Denkha (Ibrahim), Harriet Dyer (Stacey), Alexander England (Shit-Stick), David Field (Vic), Damon Herriman (Jason), Josh McConville (Gav), Marshall Napier (Graham), Henry Nixon (Sgt. James McFadden), Julia Ohannessian (Rashida), Lap Phan (Terry), Robert Rabiah (Amir), Rahel Romahn (Nick), Justin Rosniak (Ditch), Anthony Taufa (Taufa), Christiaan Van Vurren (Doof), Lincoln Younes (Hassim), Dylan Young (Az)
Runtime: 90 mins
OUR DOWN UNDER REVIEWS & RATINGS:
Sometimes the best comedy is the darkest. In Duck Soup, The Marx Brothers’ led Freedonia into a good old fashioned knees up to celebrate the oncoming war that will swamp the country. The terrorists in Chris Morris’ Four Lions are shown to be petty, back stabbers that argue about Mini-Babybels and struggle to align their separate ideologies. And now we have Abe Forsyth’s Down Under, a violent, gut-bursting farce set against the backdrop of the Cronulla Riots.
We follow two separate groups of men chomping at the bit to get into a boot party. In the Cronulla corner, we have family man Jason (Damon Herriman) and Ned Kelly’s biggest fan Ditch (Justin Rosniak) on the prowl for anyone looking vaguely middle eastern. And vague is the operative word, as at one point it becomes apparent that they’re not even sure who they’re really after. To bulk up their numbers, they drag along dope head Shit-Stick (Alexander England) who would rather watch Lord of the Rings with his cousin from Nimbi, Evan (Chris Bunton)
Playing for the Sydney West team is the fiery Nick (Rahel Romahn), insufferable beat-boxer D-Mac (Fayssal Bazzi) and deeply religious Ibrahim (Michael Denkha). Tagging along with them is Hassim (Lincoln Younes), whose brother went missing the day the riots started.
Neither group is treated as the heroes of Down Under. Instead Forsythe highlights how their need to bash people because of a perceived difference really comes from the same misguided rage. And in the film, as in real life, this rage only begets more rage until no one is listening to anyone. It’s interesting to note that the director never allows the violence committed by the men to be diluted by the comedy. Each punch and bat swung connects viciously, there’s consequences to what they deal out. Instead, he bursts their bubbles by highlighting their naivety and hypocrisy, such as when Jason takes a break from bashing to get his pregnant girlfriend a kebab, or when Nick’s bravado reveals a violent resentment of immigrants. Other times, Forsythe soundtracks his characters’ actions to inappropriate pop songs from the era, including a rather wonderful rendition of Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn.
Where Down Under falls flat, at least for me, is Nick and Hassim’s interactions with drug dealer, Vic (David Field). Vic’s lascivious advances towards Hassim whilst surrounded by well-oiled, well-muscled young men feels trite and, in a film that lampoons stereotypes, feels, well, stereotypical. Because despite how the film’s trailer portrays them, these aren’t stupid men. Sure they say stupid things, but they’re clearly caught up in the chest beating and hubris that’s permeating in the streets. One of Jason’s team is revealed to have a white collar job, whilst Hassim is shown from the off-set to be studying for uni. These are not all thick men, and that’s what makes them scary. They’ve found an opportunity to release they deep-rooted beliefs.
With an ending that will pull the rug from under you, Down Under exposes the underbelly and idiocy of racism through laughter, violence, copious amounts of swearing and B*Witched songs. Sure to be controversial, you need to see it.
Average Subculture Rating (out of 5):
Other Subculture Entertainment Down Under reviews: Nil.
Summary: About Erika who claims that popular boy, Sata is her boyfriend. She has no choice but to make him her fake boyfriend. Unfortunately,he may look like a sweet person, but he is actually an ultra sadist and treat her like a slave.
Wolf Girl & Black Prince is a Japanese animated series, revolving around an off-beat high school romance. It is released on DVD and BluRay in Australia by Madman Entertainment.
I found this series to be an enjoyable watch despite, or perhaps because of, my constantly conflicting feelings about the main pair’s romance. This romance is centred around Erika (the lying ‘wolf-girl’) and her ‘black prince,’ Kyoya.
What, at times, seems like an abusive relationship (or, at least, a pretend relationship) is complicated by sudden glimpses of care and sweetness throughout that keep you building hope in a happy outcome; just as Erika does as she realises the truth of her feelings and confesses her love to Kyoya.
By raising these conflicting feelings within its audience’s minds the story successfully manages to put us in Erika’s place. At times we want her to just end it; it’s a ridiculous situation to be in. And then we suddenly think that there’s more to it, and more to him, and maybe we want to give him another chance…
It’s just like a relationship – especially one that may not be good for us. Still, you do have to wonder why Erika does put up with it and this could be a question that makes you wonder if you want to keep watching once you are past the halfway point and our protagonist is still putting herself through emotional heartache.
However, the truth of the situation is that Erika constantly lands herself in the thick of it with her lies and exaggerations but ends up finding numerous friendships – which is what she set out to do in the first episode of the series as she starts her first day of high school. Find rewards like this is what really makes the show attractive and enticing.
A great array of supporting characters and interrelationships are shown throughout the series. Some characters could have benefited by more screentime, or a longer series, but as the story is Erika and Kyoya’s relationship this would have been extraneous to the main plot and dragged out the painful parts of the relationship to the point where you would probably stop watching.
A lot of time is spent hoping for more details into Kyoya’s past and reasons for his actions which are hinted at but held very close to the chest until the end, unfortunately. It would have been nice to put a bit more of this information in along the way, but it is worth pursuing to the end to get more pieces of the puzzle, despite the harder moments of character ‘sadism’ in the series.
This DVD is only presented in the original Japanese audio with English subtitles (which I prefer, anyway). The characters work with suitable voices that fit the usual archetypes and stereotypes, setting suitable tones for each moment of drama, humour, romance and so on. It is this voice work and the additional characters that keep the entertainment going and lighten the more emotionally draining moments.
This is a well-made series, done in the typical style with the primary focus on exaggerating Erika’s rollercoaster of emotions and highlighting important moments such as the flashbacks to Kyoya’s childhood.
I like that the production team did not resolve every little thing for each and every character, as this is how it is in real life. Despite some heightened drama, you walk away believing in the relationships and characters’ personal / internal dramas; like a window into a single chapter of someone’s life.
Focus is given to the romance and relationships and getting that to a certain point without wholly and conveniently fixing everything in everyone’s lives.
This is a ‘lite’ DVD set, with the only features being the usual textless opening and ending credits. I like this, however, as the theme tunes got stuck firmly in my head. Being a short, complete story I did not feel the set suffered from not having further features, as the real experience is the story itself.
This series is available in stores now from Madman Entertainment.
Average Subculture Rating (out of 5):
Other Subculture Entertainment Wolf Girl And Black Prince reviews: Nil.
Summary: Just as Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) sell their home and plan on moving to the suburbs they suddenly find themselves under attack again as a sorority led by party girl Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz) move in next door. The arrival of former frat boy Teddy (Zac Efron) has everybody asking which side he will decide to join.
Australian Cinema Release Date: 5th May 2016
Australian DVD Release Date: TBA
Country: United States
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Screenwriter: Andrew Jay Cohen, Brendan O’Brien, Nicholas Stoller, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
OUR BAD NEIGHBOURS 2: SORORITY RISING REVIEWS & RATINGS:
The last few things have shown us that comedy sequels often do not live up to original film in the franchise… especially, so it seems, if that original film was an absolute comedy gem. Comedy fans have watched as franchise after franchise have taken this ill-fated path as – Zoolander 2, Horrible Bosses 2, Hangover 2 + 3 and Anchorman 2 have all fallen well short of the brilliance that their predecessor had brought. The result was scorn from film critics and comedy lovers right around the world.
Now we find ourselves sitting down to watch Bad Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising a film born into existence after the shock success of the 2014 adult rated comedy. With much of the key cast and crew returning for a second trip you could be excused for thinking that this film would be just as good… sadly that wasn’t the case.
This time around we find young parents Mac (Seth Rogen – This Is The End) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne – Insidious) expecting their second child and in the middle of selling their home as they decide to move their expanding family out to the suburbs. With the house sold the couple just have to hope that nothing goes wrong during the thirty day cooling off period.
Enter Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz – Kick-Ass) who feels that the sororities are getting the raw end of the deal when she discovers that they can’t party the same way as fraternities. Desperate to proves that girls can do it just as well as boys she moves her sorority into the house next to Mac and Kelly’s causing the couple to realise that their nightmare is coming true. Worse still is the fact that after being thrown out by his best friend, Pete (Dave Franco – Now You See Me), former fraternity leader Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron – The Lucky One) is only too happy to teach them everything he knows.
Sadly though Bad Neighbours 2 is another sequel that struggles to get anywhere near the quirkiness and humor that the first film managed to produce. The sad thing about this film is that it should have been painfully clear for anyone watching the first cuts of the film to see what had gone wrong – yes the problems here at basic but enough to sink the film.
The main thing that drags down this film is some very lazy and poor screenwriting. At times it feels like the writers here forgot key points from the first film, things such as the fact that at the end of the film Mac and Teddy met up and seemingly settled their difference, yet at the beginning of this film it feels like they haven’t seen each other since the frat moved out and Teddy still has a score to settle. Likewise much of the ‘wrong’ comedy that made the first film work so well are missing here. At the screening I was at the audience burst into laughter the 2-3 times the writers were game enough to attempt a politically incorrect joke but for the rest of time barely raised a chuckle as attempted jokes just played out on the screen in front of them.
The other big issue with Bad Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising is the members of the sorority themselves. It seems like the writers were hamstrung with what they should do with most of the female characters this time around. On one hand they set up Shelby, Nora (Beanie Feldstein – Fan Girl) and Beth (Kiersy Clemons – Dope) as bad girls who want to live up life at college. Yet when it comes to the crust of things we see anything but and the girls end up becoming walking clichés whose actions seem to become very ‘unimportant’ to the writers. In one scene a big deal is made about the fact that Shelby is a virgin yet her ‘Shelby Lost Her Virginity’ is shown in a quick ten second montage. As if that isn’t made enough the writers seem to have borrowed the characteristics of the girls from Pitch Perfect – perhaps they didn’t think we would notice that the alternative girl, the larger girl and the strange-speaking Asian character act had all been done before.
Sadly it seems the sorority was ruined by writers who seemed to want to make the characters too politically correct and as a result they lost their hard edge. Remember back to the original film when Teddy, Pete and Scoonie (Chrisopher Mintz-Plasse – How To Train Your Dragon) were politically incorrect yet also had memorable characterisation? Well all of that is missing here from the girls of the sorority and boy does it show. Perhaps the writers needed to revisit films like Valentine and Sorority Row to see how ‘bad’ sorority girls should be written.
The other unfortunate losers when it comes to the writing are the cast. Rogen and Byrne are certainly held back from delivering the good comedic performances they did in the first film and while supporting cast members like Ike Barinholtz (Sisters) and Carla Gallo (We Bought A Zoo) do get the odd laugh here and there it just isn’t enough to save the film. And as for poor Chloe Grace Moretz, well this normally good actress is reduced to a ‘nothing’ role that is best to be left off her resume.
In reigning in Bad Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising and making it more politically correct than the original film in the franchise the powers-that-be behind the film have made this a largely unfunny film that rehashes old jokes and doesn’t even deserve to live in the shadow of its much more impressive brother. Fans of the original film beware, you will not get as many laughs this time around.
Movie sequels can be very hit and miss for any number of reasons, for every Terminator 2 there’s a Terminator 3. Comedy sequels are much more miss than hit, this usually has to do with the set up for the original film not really being suited for a franchise. Some movies like 22 Jump Street or Robocop 2 feature self aware humor about this. As if the writers are nodding to the audience saying “yeah we know its silly, just go with it”. Not every comedy movie needs to break the fourth wall like this but it sometimes helps to know the filmmakers understood how ridiculous it was to make a sequel to something that was better suited as a one off. When they don’t then often the movie can come off as a shameless cash in.
Bad Neighbors 2 is the sequel to the hugely successful 2014 comedy. When we last left our protagonists new parents Mac (Seth Rogan) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) they had successfully defeated the troublesome fraternity and its leader Teddy (Zac Efron) who had moved in next door to their new home. They were content and ready to continue their lives without fear of loud late night parties next door or stray condoms in their front yard. Flash forward 2 years and Mac and Kelly are expecting a second child, despite all their money going into their new home in the first film it is apparently time to upgrade to another house in a different neighborhood. They’ve bought their new home, sold their “old” house to new home owners and are now waiting for the 30 day cool off period to end before they can officially move on. Much to their dismay at this point a sorority led by pot smoking partying Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz) and her forgettable friends moves in to the old frat house next door and Mac and Kelly and the audience find history repeating itself.
Personally I really enjoyed the original Bad Neighbors. The characters were as believable as they needed to be, the improvisation (line-o-rama) scenes didn’t feel out of place and the humor was on par with what I expected. It was a somewhat average frat-house comedy but I enjoyed it. This movie didn’t quite match that. To be honest I didn’t have high expectations yet still I felt disappointed. Generally it feels like a lazy rehash of the original movie without any of the minimal characterization or even minimal originality which made it decent. The story largely playing out the same way we saw it 2 years ago but without the focus on the characters that was needed it streamed from one joke to the next without me ever seeing why I should care about anyone in the movie. The “this is sexist” angle is played out in such an over the top hamfisted but unfunny way im not sure why they bothered in the first place.
Bad Neighbors 2 is a movie which probably shouldn’t have been made. While not being quite as bad its very much on the Hangover 2 side of comedy sequels. I’m much more a fan of “follow ups” than sequels in this case where the same crew and principal actors make another movie in the same vein as the original rather than a straight sequel. I’d much rather Hot Fuzz than Shaun of The Dead 2. If only something similar had been done here.
Summary: As the worst opera singer in the world, Florence Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep) prepares to take her career to dizzying new heights a young pianist, Cosme McMoon (Simon Helberg) finds himself swept up into the world of lies that Florence’s hsuband , St Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant), has set up in order to protect her feelings.
Australian Cinema Release Date: 5th May 2016
Australian DVD Release Date: TBA
Country: United Kingdom, France
Director: Stephen Frears
Screenwriter: Nicholas Martin
Cast: Nina Arianda (Agnes Stark), Mark Arnold (Cole Porter), Richard Bevan (Stubbs), Dar Dash (Antonio), Carl Davis (Orlando Adams), Paola Dionisotti (Baroness Le Feyre), Rebecca Ferguson (Kathleen), Aida Garifullina (Lily Pons), Hugh Grant (St Clair Bayfield), David Haig (Carlo Edwards), Simon Helberg (Cosme McMoon), Tony Honickberg (Mr. Levi), John Kavanagh (Arturo Toscanini), James Sobol Kelly (Edgar), Elliot Levey (Edgar Booth Cunningham Jr.), Greg Lockett (Chuck), Nat Luurtsema (Tallulah Bankhead), Danny Mahoney (Clifford B Thornton III), Simon Markson (Charlie), Christian McKay (Earl Wilson), David Menkin (Carlton Smith), David Mills (Augustus Corbin), Georgina Morton (Pearl), Josh O’Connor (Donaghy), Sid Phoenix (Corporal Jones), Jonathan Plowright (Ernest Ziegler), Phillp Rosch (Archie), Liza Ross (Mrs. EE Paterson), Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins),
Runtime: 110 mins
OUR FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS REVIEWS & RATINGS:
The world of cinema can be a strange, strange place. Whenever a film comes out I hear people talking about what demographic the film will appeal to, whether it will appeal to men or women etc. I’ve never really taken much notice of it because when it comes to films my tastes are pretty varied. While I love my horror and science-fiction I can also settle down and watch a movie meant for kids, like Monster’s Inc. and enjoy it as well. The same with movies meant for older people, take 45 Years for an example, while some said it was for older people I enjoyed it to the point where it has been one of my favourite films of this year.
But now comes a film that is making me re-think whether some films are meant for different ages, and that film is Florence Foster Jenkins. Now I’m not going to sit here and say I hated the film because I didn’t. For me it was just a mediocre film, it didn’t bore me but it didn’t exactly have me labelling it a classic either. What did surprise me was the comedy aspect of the film. Sure the first couple of times Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada) warbled horribly as Florence Foster Jenkins I chuckled, but there were some older members of the audience I was in who laughed themselves stupid every time Florence attempted to sing. Yes it really did have that kind of effect on the older audience.
So why was Streep singing so badly off key? Because in this film she plays Florence Foster Jenkins, a real life character who during the 1940s made a name for herself for literally being a bad singer. And while anyone that every heard her would know she was a dreadful singer she was spared those details by the fact that her husband, St Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant – Notting Hill) did everything in his power to make sure she never found out the truth. That included paying music critics and making sure anyone who ever laughed during her performances was quickly turfed out of the venue.
During the film we see Florence start off at a small level of singing for small groups of people but as she plans to take her career even further, to the point of recording a single and performing on bigger stages, she decides to team up with a young piano player named Cosme McMoon (Simon Helberg – The Big Bang Theory) who quickly finds himself having to get used to St Clair and Florence’s web of lies.
As far as the film goes despite being very light hearted in style in does get to you emotionally. Such is the power of director Stephen Frears (The Queen) and screenwriter Nicholas Martin’s (Midsomer Murders) style of filmmaking that many of the scenes of the ailing Florence really do start to get you, so much so that you do want her to be happy. That style of filmmaking also raises suspense at times when you wonder how some people will be react to Florence’s singing and how their reaction will affect her.
It is those kinds of scenes that make this film well worth watching but there are also some downsides to Florence Foster Jenkins as well, and those largely centre around a huge issue in the casting. As you would expect from a film like this Meryl Streep puts in a brilliant emotionally driven performance and while Hugh Grant does match her remarkable well for me it felt like he was miscast in the role of Florence’s husband. While the wardrobe department have done all they can to ‘age’ Grant for the role it does come across as very creepy matching at times during the film… yes almost as creepy as the pairing of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sean Connery in Entrapment. Having said that though Grant does put in a good and charming performance, he’s just in a role that he should never have been cast in.
The other actor who really impresses in this film is Simon Helberg who most people will know as Howard Wolowitz on the successful comedy series The Big Bang Theory. Herlberg has shown throughout his television career that he has impeccable comedic timing and he certainly brings that to his character here – the socially awkward and very innocent McMoon. To his credit Helberg not only matches Streep and Grant’s performances but sometimes even manages to steal the limelight with his creative facial expressions.
Maybe I didn’t find Florence Foster Jenkins as funny as some of the other people screening that I was in but I still found it a heartfelt film that grows on you the longer it goes on.
Summary: As Mother’s Day rapidly approaches various people find themselves going through different stages of life. Sandy (Jennifer Aniston) finds that her ex-husband’s suprise is nothing like she expected, Miranda (Julia Roberts) decides to keep impressing her fans and ignore the fact the day is near, Jesse (Kate Hudson) and Gabi (Sarah Chalke) find themselves having to hide their lives from their parents, Bradley (Jason Sudeikis) prepares to help his daughters through their first Mother’s Day after the death of their mother while Kristin (Britt Robertson) finds it impossible to accept Zack’s (Jack Whitehall) marriage proposal as she heads into her first Mother’s Day.
Australian Cinema Release Date: 28th April 2016
Australian DVD Release Date: TBA
Country: United States
Director: Garry Marshall
Screenwriter: Tom Hines, Lily Hollander, Anya Kochoff, Matthew Walker
Cast: Jennifer Aniston (Sandy), Ella Anderson (Vicky), Brittany Belt (Beth Anne), Ayden Bivek (Tanner), Charly Briggs (Baby Katie Zim), Remy Briggs (Baby Katie Zim), Caleb Brown (Mikey), Joseph Leo Bwarie (Principal Bobby Lee), Jesse Case (Rachel), Sarah Chalke (Gabi), Hector Elizondo (Lance Wallace), Cameron Esposito (Max), Adam Freeman (HSN Host Adam Freeman), Gary Friedkin (Shorty), Jennifer Garner (2nd Lt. Dana Barton), Lisa Roberts Gillian (Assistant Betty), Adreana Gonzalez (Publicist Inez), Suzanne Haring (Bella the Balloon Lady), Tom Hines (Brady), Kate Hudson (Jesse), Mia Jackson (herself), Genevieve Joy (herself), Beth Kennedy (Gwenda), Siena LaGambina (Paige), Kate Linder (Dog Walker Gigi), Loni Love (Kimberly), Jon Lovitz (Wally Burn), Natalie Machado (Soccer Referee Lisa), Aasif Mandvi (Russell), Penny Marshall (Narrator), Sam Marshall (Sam), Margo Martindale (Flo), Drew Matthews (Beanzie), Shay Mitchell (Tina), Ariana Neal (Evette), Anoush NeVart (Sonia), Timothy Olyphant (Henry), Robert Pine (Earl), Julia Roberts (Miranda), Britt Robertson (Kristin), Graydon Russell (Tommy), Gianna Simone (Val), Brandon Spink (Peter), Jason Sudeikis (Bradley), Sandra Taylor (Lexy), Owen Vaccaro (Charlie), Paul Vogt (Tiny), Matthew Walker (Randy The Clown), Lucy Walsh (Jody), David Wedil (Dog Walker Leah), Jack Whitehall (Zack)
Runtime: 118 mins
OUR MOTHER’S DAY REVIEWS & RATINGS:
Over the past few years Garry Marshall’s movies haven’t always been easy to watch. The man who once brought as classic television shows like Happy Days and The Odd Couple has turned to a lazy style of filmmaking which has seen him use the quantity of stars to get people into the cinema rather than the quality of the film. The result has been films like New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day which while have had star power but haven’t exactly been the most captivating films to watch.
It was because of that style of filmmaking that has meant that Mother’s Day has virtually been released in Australia with very little fanfare at all, a surprise when you realise that it stars three regular box office winners – Jennifer Aniston (We’re The Millers), Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman) and Kate Hudson (Almost Famous). If you are one of those people that have been a little bit worried about going to see Mother’s Day you can relax because this is one of Marshall’s better modern day films.
The film centres around a number of characters as Mother’s Day rapidly approaches. There is Jesse (Kate Hudson) and her sister Gabi (Sarah Chalke – Scrubs) who haven’t seen their parents in years because of their secret lives they know that their parents would not approve them. There is also Sandy (Jennifer Aniston) who is left reeling after she discovers that her ex-husband (Timothy Olyphant – Hitman) has just re-married the much younger Tina (Shay Mitchell – Pretty Little Liars) which means her children know have a second mother. Then there is Bradley (Jason Sudeikis – Horrible Bosses) who has been left trying to bring up his daughters after the death of his mother while Zack (Jack Whitehall – Fresh Meat) struggles to comprehend why the mother of his daughter, Kristin (Britt Robertson – The Longest Ride) refuses to marry him. Last but not least there is Miranda (Julia Roberts), the television show host that brings the ensemble all together.
After watching Mother’s Day i found myself sitting down and going over the film like a crime scene. Why did Mother’s Day work so well when Marshall’s previous films have been such lame ducks. The first thing I realised was the fact that Mother’s Day seems to flow a lot smoother than the previously mentioned films. Some of the links between characters in the other films have been pretty lame where as in Mother’s Day the relationships are not only believable but help the film’s storyline to move along rather than get in the way of it.
There also seems to be a lot more heart and humor in the film this time around which in the end makes the whole film seem a whole lot more realistic. While the story revolving around Bradley might not be as well presented as the similar story in Steve Carrell’s Dan In Real Life Sudeikis does manage to mix comedy with some truly emotional scenes. Likewise Sarah Chalke and Kate Hudson brilliantly portray two sisters sadly forced to live secret lives despite the fact they live in modern times. Like Sudeikis the two manage to amazingly combine comedy with some scenes that are powerful enough to really upset anybody who has had similar things happen in their lives.
Perhaps the biggest breath of fresh air in Mother’s Day are the acting performances of Britt Robertson and Jack Whitehall. Whitehall largely comes from a comedy background and while he plays a stand-up comedian in Mother’s Day he shows a new side to his talents by also expertly portraying a lot of the more emotional scenes that he shares with Britt Robertson who is almost unrecognisable compared to the roles that she has recently played in Tomorrowland and The Longest Ride.
Marshall really does find the right mix of comedy and drama and manages to make Mother’s Day a credible film that is a joy to watch. This is a film that you can easily become emotionally involved with and with great acting performances from the likes of Aniston, Hudson and Sarah Chalke this is actually a film that you won’t groan at if someone in your family decides that want to watch it every Mother’s Day. Garry Marshall take a bow you have finally learnt how to make a good ensemble film.
Mother’s Day is the third film in director Garry Marshall’s unofficial trilogy based around Hallmark-like “special events” holidays, and it follows the bland template established by the romcom Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve. All three films are multi-character narratives with interwoven storylines and a star studded ensemble cast in which a bevy of A-listers vie for screen time. In terms of quality thoughMother’s Day falls somewhere between the superior Valentine’s Day and the lacklustre New Year’s Eve, which seem a little contrived by comparison.
Given the title it’s not surprising that all of the narrative strands here revolve around different concepts of motherhood, maternal responsibilities, complex mother and child relationships, and the daily struggles of motherhood. The formulaic script has been written by four writers including Anya Kochoff Romano (Monster-in-Law) and three first time screenwriters in actor turned writer Tom Hines (a regular in many of Marshall’s films), Lily Hollander, and Matthew Walker, which accounts for a slight unevenness in tone at times.
The film is set in Atlanta and centres around a number of middle class women during the days leading up to the titular celebration day.
Jesse (Kate Hudson) and her sister Gabi (Sarah Chalke, from Scrubs, etc) live next to each other, and they haven’t seen their parents for a couple of years, mainly because they fear that their judgemental mother (Margot Martindale) will disapprove of their lifestyle choices. Jesse has married Russell (Aasif Mandvi), a doctor of Indian descent with whom she has a young son, while Gabi is gay and married to her girlfriend Max (Cameron Esposito). But when their parents unexpectedly stop by for a surprise visit the scene is set for some emotional upheavals and broad racist humour before a reconciliation can be affected.
Sandy (Jennifer Aniston) is divorced from her husband Henry (Timothy Olyphant, from tv’s Justified, etc), but they seem to share a good relationship. But then Sandy is shocked to learn that he has married the much younger Tina (Shay Mitchell, from Pretty Little Liars, etc). She is a little jealous and even bitter at having to share her two sons with their new stepmother who is barely out of puberty herself.
Bradley (Jason Sudeikis) is a physical trainer still recovering from the death of his wife (a cameo from Jennifer Garner), a soldier who was killed in action in Afghanistan a year ago. He is something of a mister mum, trying to raise his two daughters, but struggling to keep it all together. Several of the women at the gym where he works are trying to fix him up with a suitable partner. But as Mother’s Day approaches, Bradley is not sure how to handle his emotions.
Zack (Jack Whitehall) works in a bar but is also an aspiring stand up comic. He wants to marry his girlfriend Kristin (Britt Robertson, from The Last Ride, etc), who is the mother of his young daughter. But Kristin was adopted as a child and is still suffering from some abandonment issues. She is reluctant to marry him until she can come to terms with who she is.
The link that draws all these various characters together is Miranda (Julia Roberts), the popular host of a television home shopping network program and celebrity author.
The cast do what they can with their at times cliched characters. Aniston is a familiar figure in romcoms, and fittingly most of the best moments and best lines are given to her character. She manages to bring the material alive whenever she is on screen. Hector Elizondo, who has appeared in all of Marshall’s films, has a small role here as Miranda’s increasingly exasperated manager.
This is surprisingly lazy filmmaking from veteran Marshall, who of course gave us such classic television sitcoms as Happy Days, Mork And Mindy and The Odd Couple, and big screen romantic comedies like the classic Pretty Woman. Mother’s Day is suffused with his trademark mix of humour and warmth. Here he juggles his large cast and multi story lines deftly enough, and gives us a mix of slapstick humour mixed with sentimentality that sometimes slips into mawkishness.
Summary: Divorced real estate agent Frank Mollard’s (Anthony LaPaglia) is struggling to deal with divorce and his place in the world when he is suddenly surprised from a phone call by Sarah (Julia Blake) an elderly woman who reminds Frank of his own mother who is now deceased.
Australian Cinema Release Date: 28th April 2016
Australian DVD Release Date: TBA
Director: Matthew Saville
Screenwriter: Matthew Saville
Cast: Wayne Anthony (Noel Lang), Julia Blake (Sarah), John Clarke (Phillip Lang), Justine Clarke (Wendy), Terence Crawford (Staurt), Indiana Crowther (Frank Jnr.), Mikaela Davies (Olivia), Donal Forde (Damian), Patrick Graham (Ian Treggoning), Anthony LaPaglia (Frank Mollard)
Runtime: 110 mins
OUR A MONTH OF SUNDAYS REVIEWS & RATINGS:
A film is supposed to make you feel a range of different emotions when you watch it, but very often it’s how you feel as you leave the cinema that is the most important. Will you leave feeling entertained? Informed? The one thing you probably shouldn’t be feeling when you leave the cinema is empty… but sadly that is the way I found myself feeling as I left the cinema after a screening of A Month of Sundays… something that I should add that the friends with me were feeling as well.
To be honest that completely surprised me because in the past I have adored the films made by Australian director Matthew Saville. His debut feature Noise was a fresh alternative Police drama that had me really raving about the brilliance of the film, while his last film Felony again visited the boys in the blue and kept its audience guessing from start to finish.
That is the first thing that hits you about A Month Of Sundays it is very different to anything that Saville has done before. Instead of going down the crime path this film centres around Frank Mollard (Anthony LaPaglia – Without A Trace) a real estate agent who has found himself in a deep funk as he struggles to see any importance in his work and is also dealing with the fact that his now famous wife, Wendy (Justine Clarke – Look Both Ways), has left him and he has no idea how to connect with his son, Frank Jnr. (Indiana Crowther – newcomer).
Then along comes something that sparks a little bit of interest in Frank’s life. He receives an accidental phone call from Sarah (Julia Blake – Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark), a retired librarian who reminds him of his mother. While Frank’s uncaring boss, Phillip Lang (John Clarke – The Man Who Sued God) warns him against it Frank finds himself drawing closer to Sarah.
A quick read through of the summary of the film and you see that it could have been possible for A Month Of Sundays to have been a very thought provoking film. To its credit the film does explore topics such as how an older male deals with the break-up of a marriage, the loss of his mother and also trying to relate to his teenage son, but the film just does not go deep enough into any of those topics to make it worthy film. The film also doesn’t allow its audience to feel sorry for Frank enough, we simply see him as a morose (and kind of boring) individual and as a result you just never really develop a connection to him. Worse still is the fact that the filmmakers obviously think that the audience with side with Frank and not support Sarah’s son in his belief that Sarah and Frank’s friendship is a little strange. Truthfully it is easier to see the son’s point of view than it is to see Frank’s.
One of the biggest problems with the film though is that it just seems to cruise along at a steady pace with very little highs. The major high throughout the film is the comedic style of John Clarke, which most Australians would have come to know and love with his political satire on A Current Affair. Clarke’s style steals nearly every scene that he is in and it is often his one liners that are the stand out. He even manages to deliver some good emotional scenes as we see his character battle with dealing with the fact that his elderly father has lost his mind.
As usual Anthony LaPaglia is good but really doesn’t get a lot to work with. He breezes through his scenes while wearing the same emotion on his face in nearly every scene. He is well supported by Justine Clarke and newcomer, Indiana Crowther. The clear standout here though is Julia Blake who commands the screen in every scene she appears in and once again she has managed to deliver another great performance.
A Month Of Sundays is a little bit of a letdown for all the Matthew Saville fans out there. Slow and unremarkable this is a film that I doubt that I will revisit.
A Month Of Sundays is the third film from writer/director Matt Saville (a veteran of television with credits ranging from the telemovie The King to sitcom Please Like Me), and is something of a change of pace for a filmmaker widely considered as one of our best. His first two films were the multi-award winning Noise and Felony, both character-driven police dramas that explored themes of guilt, responsibility, family and secrets. A Month Of Sundays is a more introspective drama about a man undergoing a midlife crisis who gets a new lease on life after he meets an elderly woman. It deals with universal themes of family, loss, grief, mortality, dysfunctional relationships, the dream of owning your own home, regeret and redemption, and a variety of complex mother/son relationships.
The central character here is Frank Mollard (played by Anthony LaPaglia, from tv series Without A Trace, the recent Holding The Man, and AFI award winning dramas Balibo, Lantana, etc), a real estate agent who has fallen into a pit of despair and is sleepwalking through his life at the moment. He is having trouble selling houses, even in the midst of a real estate boom. His mother has recently died, he is still dealing with the breakdown of his marriage to Wendy (Justine Clarke), who is finding fame as the star of a new television medical drama, and is having difficulty relating to his teenaged son (newcomer Indiana Crowther). His job is selling houses that belong to the soon to be deceased, which further adds to his emotional turmoil and sense of grief.
Then he receives phone call from the elderly Sarah (Julia Blake), who accidentally rang his number when trying to call her own son. Intrigued by their brief conversation and the sense of comfort it briefly provided, Frank arranges to meet Sarah and through her he explores his own grief and emotional confusion. His presence soon proves an irritant to her real son Damien (Donal Forde), who works as an IT expert. But eventually Sarah becomes something of a surrogate mother figure and her wisdom and life experiences eventually help snap Frank out of his ennui and he begins to reconect with the world around him.
But unfortunately this earnest and well meaning but contrived melodrama is the lesser of Saville’s three films. It is uneven in both tone and pacing. There are problems with the script and the characterisation as we don’t really identify with some of the characters here or even care that much about them.
Veteran cinematographer Mark Wareham (Felony, BoyTown, etc) makes good use of the leafy tree lined suburban streets of Adelaide and gives the film a strong sense of location and a strong visual surface.
LaPaglia is good at conveying the fragility and vulnerability of the male psyche and he does a good job here bringing some unexpected layers to his nuanced portrayal of Frank. A nice touch sees Frank describe every location he enters in terse real estate terms: “Meticulously renovated family home; untouched period charm; late Victorian style; scope to further improve…” Although 79, Blake is still a formidable screen presence and she brings gravitas to her role as Sarah. But the best moments of the film centre around Frank’s shifty boss Philip (a scene stealing performance by comic John Clarke), a shifty hustler with a heart of stone. Clarke brings his usual dry, deadpan wit to the role and I wanted more of his character and less of the melodramatic stuff about dysfunctional families and midlife crises that we have seen in numerous other similarly themed films.
But overall A Month Of Sundays is a rather trite and pedestrian affair that will struggle to resonate with a wider mainstream audience.
Anthony LaPaglia plays sour faced estate agent, Frank Mollard, who could be a human stand in for Droopy the Dog should he ever fail to turn up for work. Frank is still wrestling with unaired feelings about his mother’s death the previous year, his ex-wife is carving a successful career as an actress and his distant son appears to be following suit. He’s also become disenfranchised with his job; watching potential first time home owners lose out to middle-aged hipster property tycoons. When he receives a call from a sweet old lady called Sarah (Julia Blake) who has misdialled, Frank spies an opportunity to claw back some of the happiness he once had.
There’s something about A Month of Sundays, the latest film from director Matthew Saville, that doesn’t quite stick. For all intents and purposes the goods it puts on display are tempting; great cast, sunny locale and a touching underdog story that often resonates with Australian audiences. And yet it all feels a bit too light, particularly when stacked up against Saville’s previous work, such as Felony and Noise.
The trailer suggests that this will be a bittersweet drama about two people forming a cross-generational friendship in which they’ll laugh, cry, and possibly even learn something at the end of the day. However, Sarah, played wonderfully by Julia Blake, is merely one of several characters who walk in and out of scene to validate Frank’s demeanour. We learn an awful lot about the bitter agent, but very little about the dear OAP who likes to use the Dewey decimal system to keep her books in order at home. Affectations do not a personality make.
When a turning point in the film sees Sarah receive some tragic news, it makes the same misstep as Me and Earl and The Dying Girl, by denying her agency and instead focussing on how poor Frank will cope. LaPaliga is brilliant, but this film should really be more of a two-hander than it is. However, it’s not all doom and gloom, as Jack Clarke steals a number of scenes as Frank’s boss Peter Langdon. Even then though his acidic one-liners are hampered by scenes involving his mentally ill father that feel like they were taken from another film.
As feel good movies go, this is pretty much by the numbers stuff and it’s such a shame that a talented person like Saville would make such a misstep. However, in the right mood, A Month of Sundays is perhaps a non-taxing classic Sunday arvo film waiting to happen.