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New release movie reviews - 31 October

Posted by: Jim Schembri | 31 October, 2012 - 6:22 PM
End of Watch

END OF WATCH ***1/2 (108 minutes) MA
As two cops policing the mean streets of Los Angeles, Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena) make for a grittily realistic dynamic duo in blue. Long-time pals, they love the knife's edge they traverse each day almost as much as they love each other. Unapologetically designed by writer/director David Ayer (who wrote 2001's Training Day) as a tribute to the courage and dedication of regular street cops, the film certainly does not want for action-driven displays of bravery as the pair face down gun-crazy gang members eager to shed their blood. There is a larger plot going on that they - and we - only get fragments of, and it's deliberate. The film's primary purpose is not to tell a conventional story but to repeatedly punch the point that cops share a special bond. Full of f-bombs, chases, shoot-outs, shakedowns, arguments and friendly banter, End of Watch is a very fiery, very satisfying buddy-cop drama, heavily influenced by the video verite style of the TV show Cops and the belief in police brotherhood; the movie's central message seems to be that any bad guy who hurts a cop better pray that the person who catches up with them isn't another cop. The film also marks a small-but-significant cinematic milestone: End of Watch is shot in the very familiar first-person mode, combining digital video footage shot by Taylor, Zavala, various crims and dash cams. Now, while every other film using this style has, until now, been absolutely scrupulous in accounting for where all the footage is coming from, Ayer is untroubled and simply switches to third-person coverage when it suits him. Not even recent larks like Chronicle or Project X allowed themselves such license. Not a huge deal, admittedly, but it is a first.
    

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HOUSOS VS AUTHORITY *** (103 minutes) MA

Fans of the formidably talented Paul Fenech will love his very faithful, very funny, very crass big-screen version of his brilliantly low-brow TV series Housos. With the same pacing and over-the-top style as Pizza and Swing & Shift Couriers, the residents of Sunnyvale deal with life on the outer rim of the Australian Dream as a debt-laden Franky (Fenech) reluctantly takes on a job for a gang of bikies. The easily offended are advised to avoid, but those who appreciate Fenech's energetic style and critic-proof respect for his audience - is he Australia's Adam Sandler? - will find this dose of bogan overload a blast. His mastery of suburban satire and outrageous caricatures are beyond sensible dispute, and as far as a film doing justice to the TV show on which it is based, Housos vs Authority leaves the abomination of Kath & Kimderella for dead. 

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BACHELORETTE * (87 minutes) MA
Despite its promising start as a pleasingly dirty-minded echo of Bridesmaids, this night-before-the-wedding comedy quickly ferments into a limp, lazy, unfocussed, largely unfunny lark. Rising Australian star-of-the-moment Rebel Wilson is the giddy bride-to-be; Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan and a painfully a miscast Kirsten Dunst (not a natural comic, sadly), spend a night on the town while trying to repair the damaged wedding dress. First-time director Leslye Headland, who adapted the screenplay for her play, is all over the place, especially when it comes to modulating mood swings. The film's about as funny as flat champagne. 

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PAUL KELLY: STORIES OF ME *** (100 minutes) M

Very good, lovingly made, adoring valentine to Australian songwriter extraordinaire Paul Kelly, whose ups and downs, failings and frailties are carefully unpacked and explored by director Ian Darling and his crew. Kelly's damaging adventures with drugs are as duly documented as his literary influences and creative dry spells; the strong impression is created of a gifted guy who could have been bigger. Designed chiefly for Kelly fans. 
      

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LAST DANCE ** (89 minutes) M
Terrorist-on-the-run Sadiq (Firass Dirani, from House Husbands) hides out in the home of elderly Jewish woman Ulah (veteran Julia Blake) as he awaits orders about his next step. They talk, and inevitably get to know each other. A well-meaning two-hander full of hot-button topics and charged with potential, the film - directed by David Pulbrook, who co-wrote with Terence Hammond - is simply too polite and too timid to tackle the big questions it raises about race, religion, hatred and politics. It could have been great. Not-so-fun fact: Hollywood legend Gena Rowlands was originally cast as Ulah, but pressure from Actor's Equity saw her shut out two weeks before shooting began. 

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YOU WILL BE MY SON  *** (97 minutes; subtitled) M
Finely etched French drama about the growing tensions between successful wine maker Paul (Niels Arestrup) and his unworthy son Martin (Lorant Deutsch), who Paul deems too flaky and easily distracted to carry on his legacy. Leisurely paced at the outset, director Gilles Legrand builds a considerable head of emotional steam as Paul begins sizing up employee Philippe (Nicolas Bridet) as his possible successor - and the seismic legal steps he must take to make that happen. 

ANTON CORBIJN INSIDE OUT **1/2 (79 minutes) M
Rather pedestrian, over-long documentary about the famed Dutch photographer, music clip and film director (Control; The American). His work as a photographer gets the balance of attention (with plenty of high-profile testimonials lauding him) and while there is time spent on the set of his failed thriller The American, there's not enough mention on the perils of filmmaking.  

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