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New release movie reviews - 27 September

Posted by: Jim Schembri | 27 September, 2012 - 2:58 PM
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ARBITRAGE ***1/2 (107 minutes) MA
This terrific, character-driven New York story about big money, bigger liars, high finance and low, low morals is the best of the recent rush of fine films inspired by the GFC (Global Financial Crisis, as if you didn't know!) such as Margin Call, Inside Job, Casino Jack and Too Big to Fail. Arbitrage also works as nourishing cinematic compensation for those unfortunate souls who sat through Oliver Stone's Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Richard Gere - now 60+ and mellowing very nicely into the autumn of his film career - plays big-shot hedge fund maestro Robert Miller, an impeccably suited high-flyer who maintains a successful facade while trying to deal with a professionally frustrated French mistress (Laetitia Casta), huge losses incurred from dodgy deals and a nosy New York detective (Tim Roth). Thankfully, writer/director Nicholas Jarecki (in an impressive feature debut) keeps the focus away from financial minutiae and on the effects Miller's personal and professional misbehaviour has on his family, friends and associates. Supporting standouts include Susan Sarandon as the wife who slowly sniffs that something is wrong and Brit Marling (from the indie sci-fi film Another Earth) as Miller's ambitious daughter whose concept of her father changes when she starts looking at the cooked books a tad too closely.

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LOOPER **1/2 (118 minutes) MA
It's very rare that an over-acting child can be credited with helping save a movie, but that's the dubious distinction of Looper, the latest in an over-long list of films to take the massively over-used sci-fi device of time travel around the block. Set mostly in the year 2042, the film's head-scratching premise involves mafia assassins who kill mob enemies sent back in time from 30 years in the future. The idea is to remove all trace of their existence - but before you can say "Holy time-travel paradox, Batman", a huge host of story holes bubble up that the film can't quite keep ahead of. There are chases and shoot-outs and plenty of attempts by exposition-spouting characters to make sense of what is essentially a mess of a plot as young killer Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, from 50/50 and Dark Knight Rises) is confronted by his older self (Bruce Willis). It's only when Joe encounters Sara (Emily Blunt) and her gifted son Cid (Pierce Gagnon - the real star of the film) that the story congeals into something satisfying. The best time travel films play on emotion rather than logic, and once Looper realises this and drops all the tail-chasing about how time travel works it settles into the engrossing action/drama about destiny it should have been from the get go.

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ON THE ROAD * (140 minutes) MA

It might have been in the works for more than 30 years but this long-awaited, much-heralded, very lengthy adaptation of Jack Kerouac's 1950s beatnik novel is a bore. Hitting the road after the death of his father, struggling writer Sal (Sam Riley), his pals Dean (Garrett Hedlund), Marylou (a bland Kristen Stewart) and assorted others spend most of their screen time trying to justify why the heck we are watching them. The big problem with the film is easy to nail: it simply fails to articulate why Kerouac and his book mattered. What we get instead is a largely aimless, joyless, cinematically drab road movie full of longueurs and detours populated by dull characters with little or nothing of value to say. Some might argue this accurately reflects the post-war bohemians of Kerouac's world, though anyone familiar with the book - and all its rambling wit and pretension - will know that director Walter Salles (Central Station; Dark Water; The Motorcycle Diaries) and screenwriter Jose Rivera (The Motorcycle Diaries) just can't bring the free-form feel of the adventure vividly to life. On the Road is proof that there is a lot more to recreating a period film than costumes and set decoration. The only scene of note comes courtesy of Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss, whose frustration seems designed to echo that of the audience.  

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TINKERBELL AND THE SECRET OF THE WINGS ***1/2 (77 minutes) G
In the fourth - and far-from-final, you can bet - installment of Disney's slick and savvy Tinkerbell franchise, the mischievous Tinkerbell decides to break a major rule of life in her warm fairy commune and flit across the brook and into the snow-covered Winter Woods. There exists another equally adorable community of cute fairies with whom Tink and her ilk co-operate, but are never supposed to meet. Her transgression at first leads to some major sisterly bonding with a white-winged waif called Periwinkle. Then she brings her over to the warmer side of the valley and things go terribly awry. Joyful, fast-paced, and looking as iridescently gorgeous as the previous three films if you don't like rainbows and fairies, don't see this film!), Tink4 gets extra points for the skill with which themes of segregation, rebellion and defiance of tradition are seamlessly blended into a full-on kids' adventure that - get this - ends up saying more about climate change than either An Inconvenient Truth or The Day After Tomorrow. Plus, it has fairies in it. As far as movies for children go, these Tinkerbell films - often released straight-to-DVD - do not get the recognition they deserve for their noble adherence to classic Disney storytelling principles. To wit, the "two worlds" notion - wherein the chief character(s) venture from the familiar to the unfamiliar and grow as a result - is so proficiently deployed here it could be used in a serious screen-writing course. In terms of classic narrative construction, Tinkerbell and the Secret of the Wings succeeds where Hotel Transylvania fails. There it's been said.

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Blog comments Your Say

  • Thank you, Janice. Gotta say, if the writers of Tinkerbell got together with the makers of either On the Road or Looper, they would have been better films! (Animated fairies always spice things up.) Re: my intellectual capacities - I once went to have my IQ measured by Mensa. Two weeks later I got a letter from them thanking me and saying they were going to hold on to my test paper so they could read it out at their Christmas party. I still don't understand why. 

    Jim Schembri Tuesday 16 October, 2012 - 11:27 AM
  • Understandably you are not intellectually
    capable of reviewing Looper and OTR.
    So understandable then that you dismiss
    them with low scores and prefer to
    give Tinkerbell 3.5 stars (really?)
    How amateurish! How old are you?

    Janice Saturday 6 October, 2012 - 3:22 PM

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