Isle of Dogs




I shall state my bias at the beginning of this review. I love Wes Anderson. There is something so gentle and refreshing about his films— and he’s also as cute as…. which of course is an added bonus.

Now you say, what has a director’s looks got to do with the quality of a film… well Wes spoke on a little pre-film clip thanking us all at Palace for coming to Isle of Dogs. How sweet…. sigh.

And I loved The Royal Tenenbaums, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Moonrise Kingdom. For a young man he has a terrific catalogue of delightful films. A friend today also recommended Mr Fox.

Isle of Dogs is a stop motion animated film and is quite beautiful, full of powerful themes about treatment of the other, but also at times quite annoying because of the number of backstories. Anderson has assembled a fabulous cast of actors to voice his characters (mainly dogs) including Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Liev Schreiber, Frances McDormand, Scarlett Johansson, Greta Gerwig, Jeff Goldblum, F. Murray Abraham, Harvey Keitel and the heroic,Yoko Ono.

The dogs speak entirely in English (as we all know) and the young boy, Akira, who is the main protagonist, speaks entirely in Japanese, which is great. My Japanese consists of 3 words yet I was able to get a clear understanding of what Akira was saying. Call me brilliant if you want, but the credit must go to the film-maker who has used context so well that meaning is quite clear.

I thought the theatre would be full of children but this is not really a child’s film. Perhaps a 15+ young person with an interest in Japan, dogs and anime might enjoy this but it’s too complicated for younger children. It was a little too complicated for the writer at times as well. There were so many back stories that I was getting dizzy.

But do go and see it. It is a joyful film, very inventive, beautiful to behold and … did I mention… the Director is really cute.

Ps Say the title quickly.



The School of Life

An easy film to watch and most probably a very easy film to make.

Just take a beautiful child, some grumpy old men, a castle with a sorrowing count, an amazing forest et voilà!

Beginning in an orphanage and ending in a chateau, the young Paul is rescued from his childhood prison to live with a maid and her gamekeeper husband.

When you mention “school of life” and team it with “gamekeeper” my thoughts fly to brothels or extra marital affairs but alas this is really a film made for children. Although it is a little saucy, the real story is the transition of an abandoned child from squalor to immense wealth.

Basically it’s a fairy tale so take your children under 12 to see it, while you go to the bar, sip on a gin and tonic or two, or a class of sparkling,     or if you work for a certain university, perhaps a fluffy duck will be your choice……  then wait for the film to finish.

I, Tonya

Margot Robbie looks as much like a figure skater as I do a weight-lifter. Physically and age wise she doesn’t suit the role—- but despite these drawbacks she is marvellous!

It is quite fascinating to follow the story of Tonya Harding’s rise to fame and then infamy. Despite her world-class skills as a skater, the road to success was particularly difficult and always hampered by the fact that she was white trash and not middle -class princess.

Except for her coach, all of those around her were buffoons or vicious abusers or both! Her foul-mouthed mother almost steals the movie. It is hard to believe that any mother would treat a daughter like this. She is so cruel that it’s almost funny but most of what she says isn’t funny when you watch a mother destroy a daughter’s hopes and dreams. One piece of good advice she did give to Tonya, but  alas too late, was “You fuck stupid- not marry it”.

And stupid was her husband as well as violent. The scenes where he beat her, and pushed her face through walls and furniture were almost unwatchable.

Every now and then, as a scene played out….. the character would turn to the camera and say… “well that’s my version”  so you were always allowed to make your own decision as to  whether you were hearing the truth.

I won’t reveal any more of the narrative but Margot Robbie’s acting is fabulous, the support actors brilliant and the story fascinating. Wonderful to finally hear Tonya’s version of the knee-capping of her rival. The music is wonderful as well.



The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water is a stunning film. Now that I’ve said that you don’t need to read on!!

Like many of Guillermo del Toro’s movies, this is also a horror film or perhaps I should say a terrifying film. It is a film that escapes most labels, so you take from it what resonates most with your own fantasies, experiences or conscience. Paramount to the many themes of this Oscar nominated film is that of the treatment of the outsider.

Set in Boston during the Cold War in a top-secret, research facility, Elisa, a mute, works as a cleaner on the night-shift and is witness to the arrival and subsequent abuse of a creature imprisoned in a submarine-like container. Elisa is drawn to the creature, and offers it/him friendship. Now go and book your ticket for The Shape of Water.

The star, Sally Hawkins, who plays the lead, has been getting rave reviews culminating this week in an Oscar nomination. I was surprised to learn that Sally Hawkins wasn’t Spanish as she reminded me in many ways of the Almodovar cast of actresses (Don’t want to use the word stable).

I then started researching her career and was shocked to discover that I had seen her recently in Paddington Bear 2.    Now that could mean that I’m really thick or that she is such a good actress that she truly inhabits each of her parts and so is not readily recognizable. I prefer to think that the latter is the case.

And to finish my brief review, here this is the first sentence of the Wikipedia entry for The Shape of Water.                  The Shape of Water is a 2017 American dark fantasy romantic drama film directed by Guillermo del Toro. Ha ha. Is there any genre they have missed?



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri


Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

  • Director Martin McDonagh
  • Writer Martin McDonagh
  • Stars Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Caleb Landry Jones, Kerry Condon


This is the movie I have wanted to see since I saw the trailer months ago so when Rod and Alice were visiting from Perth we took the opportunity to sashay down to Central Park for a soup, a stroll through Spice Alley and some billboards.

Frances MacDormand, in the lead role, is an inspirational actor. She has her own face and body without a boob job that you could rest your beer on, or a set of teeth that glow in the dark. She is an inspiration because she gets by on her talent and not beauty or sexual appeal and for young women this is a rare role model in a world that primarily values youth and beauty.

She once joked that she probably got the lead in Fargo because she was sleeping with the director… (her husband Joel Coen) but I guess given the constant outings of the sexual predators in the film industry this wouldn’t work as a joke these days.

In Three Billboards, she plays a grieving, single parent who is determined to find her daughter’s killer. She believes that the local police who sit around eating Krispy Creams all day, don’t give a damn about apprehending the murderer so she decides to take matters into her own hands to encourage the police to get off their arses and do their job.

Her character is tough and fearless and we watch as she goes to extreme ends to get justice for her child and yet there are times when her face, (which is usually set in stone), breaks      and we see the vulnerable, tormented woman underneath that determination. Despite 3 Billboards being about a tragic death there are some hilarious scenes in the film.

The Director also made In Bruges, which is another great film that moves between violence, grief, humour and redemption. This is a must see movie.



Murder on the Orient Express


After having planned to see Murder on the Orient Express with my lovely friend Helen, I heard a very conflicted review on 702 radio. So despite the warning, we followed through as we both were really impressed with the line-up of actors and I do recall loving this Agatha Christie although I had totally forgotten who the dastardly murderer was.

After a rather cheap and delicious Vietnamese lunch in Kensington Street, we headed off to the new CentralPark cinema. Not bad with a lovely seating area with a bar and cafe looking out over the back where you can watch more and more apartments being built. The last one in the series is called Wonderland. I cannot imagine any sane adult wanting to live in a building called Wonderland unless of course they’re on LSD or are called Alice. What started several years ago as a lovely innovative space in Chippendale is now almost a walled community mainly for international students.

On entering the theatre, we said hello to the sole occupant. He laughed and said he thought he’d be all alone. Perhaps he was waiting for Greta G. After the film started another audience member came in and he ate a curry pie as he watched. A bit too strong a smell for the movies but not as bad as the woman who sat next to Eves and I today at a lunchroom in the CBD applying her enamel nail polish. It almost made us puke!! Two others ladies that lunch asked the waiter to tell her to stop.

Back to Murder on the O E … well Kenneth Branagh was amazing, a great performance (as usual) but his moustache was just disgusting…. and I say that sincerely. Thick… ugh… I imagined lice and bacteria living there …… an eco-system of sorts- a real lip-slug. I have been known to pour salt on the slugs that crawl under my back door and have since been wondering what would happen to Ken’s (may I call you Ken) moustache,  if he ate a bag of chips.   But I digress once again.

I found the whole movie to be very theatrical and over-styled. I thought most of the scenery had been filmed inside a movie-lot but was truly surprised to see that it had been filmed in quite a number of countries. Well the cinematographer must have gone to the “make all scenes look like a postcard” school of movie making.

The opening scene and the crime that Monsieur Poirot solves is rather charming and a little funny but the middle section…. sigh. I have never gone to a movie and felt so bored that I have started to nod off. Well that time had to come, and it came, alas, during this movie.

It was great to see the fabulous cast; Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe, Penelope Cruz etc and the poster for the film was really beguiling. Had lots of fun in the lead-up to Murder challenging friends to see who could name the most stars.

To increase the tension/look of the film, Hercules Poirot interviewed the suspects in all sorts of locations- many of which were frankly laughable- under the bridge where the train had overturned, next to a wide-open doorway of an empty carriage teetering on a mountainside. OH &S issues everywhere you looked!

But then came the last third of the film and I was moved to tears, not just by one scene but by the whole last section. All the drawbacks of the first section became inconsequential compared to the truly moving finale. And may I add another plus point; the music by Patrick Doyle, was fabulous…..original and very subtle. There is a haunting song that closes the film; look for the singer and the songwriters. You will be astonished!!




I thought I’d start this review with one of the most anguished songs ever written —you guessed it, Mother, by John Lennon.

I’ve included this version for the photos. What a super-star he was!

Well maybe not the most anguished song of all, as I’ve just remembered Pagliacci’s lament.  Try not to cry.

Now back to the movie, which opens with a heart-breaking shot of a beautiful young woman with a face half burnt staring ahead as a tear rolls down her face. This perfect image encapsulates the film to come.

The film is set in the countryside, in a huge Gothic style house standing alone in vast fields. A once famous poet with his beautiful young wife live here, restoring a house that was destroyed in a huge fire. She repairs, paints, renders the house while he tries to work on his poetry. He locks himself away in his study but no matter how many hours he spends at his desk, he has lost his creative fire. She searches for tranquility and harmony, he to shake his world up for literary inspiration and with the arrival of a man at their door, the terror begins.

Mother! is a mix of many genres, a horror film, a visual poem, a descent into hell, a critique of the media and the ensuing adulation of stars, sexual politics and more. Some reviews have remarked that the director, Daniel Aronofsky, has too many parallel themes, others see it as a biblical treatise on the story of creation, Aronofsky mentions climate change as one of his themes but welcomes all interpretations.

Mother! is a very complex film with some startling images and terrific performances. You will be entranced and repulsed at the same time. I’d recommend it highly but watch out!!

The Trip to Spain

How I love these 2 British comedians/actors. Rob Bryden, plays the restaurant reviewer and actor with a modest career and happy family life, whereas Steve Coogan plays a writer/actor with Academy nominations, and (in his own estimation) an outstanding career and a complicated romantic life.

I watched the first television series they starred in about their culinary road-trip through England then the film through Italy and loved them. The Trip to Spain follows the same formula but the emphasis this time is more on how these two men are dealing with middle-age than the actual food.

As before we have a mixture of fabulous restaurants (usually with views) and a friendship comprised of equal doses of love and sarcasm interwoven with boyish attempts to outperform and outwit one another.

Much of the film is unscripted and often you can see the delight on the actors’ faces when a joke or impression is successful. For this film they visit Cantabria, the Basque region, Aragon, La Rioja, Castile-La Mancha and Andalusia and of course dine at stunning restaurants but it is the relationship and lives of Bryden and Coogan that make this film so charming and funny.



The Beguiled


A very atmospheric remake of a 1970s film from Sofia Coppola starring our Nicole, the ever beautiful Kirsten Dunst (watch her in Melancholia; and Colin Farrell.

Set during the American Civil War, a wounded soldier is found by a young schoolgirl and helped back to the school where she boards with a small group of girls supervised by the headmistress (Kidman) and a teacher (Dunst).

At first, the girls and the two women are cautious about helping this enemy, John McBurney, but decide that “the Christian thing to do” is to help him recover then hand him over to their own soldiers.

As he lies in the music room, he becomes the focus of rivalry, repressed sexuality and jealousy, teenage desire as well as innocent friendship.

The costumes and school setting are super fabulous, the acting restrained which suits the era but as I have seen the original film, my enjoyment was rather spoiled because I knew the fate of the soldier, Corporal McBurney.

Want me to tell you?

Do want to add that the film was rather vanilla in some ways. Coppola did not include the female member of the household who was held as a slave nor the issue of incest.




Final Portrait

Geoffrey Rush, as usual, plays this role as the artist/sculptor Alberto Giocometti with exquisite attention. He was born for this role as you can see from the photos below.

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Giocometti lives in Paris with his wife, Annette, and towards the end of his life, when already a very successful sculptor, he asks an American writer friend to sit for a portrait. The friend agrees and changes his flight and hotel reservation to leave a day later. This movie tells of that rather extended sitting and Giocometti’s turbulent life in particular his relationship with the prostitute Caroline, his wife and his brother.

There is not really much of a story-line in the film, but Geoffrey Rush gives an Oscar winning performance. The film is an American/British co-production directed by Stanley Tucci.

ps I wonder if actors can claim medical insurance from movies that insist that they smoke non-stop during a performance?