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New release movie reviews - May 2
THE BIG WEDDING **1/2 (89 minutes) MA
Here is yet another example of that strange law of comedy negation, wherein the gathering of a great cast promises big things but ends up misfiring. For this overly-mannered, adult-oriented wedding-by-the-lake comedy, Robert De Niro, Susan Sarandon, Diane Keaton, Katherine Heigl, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace, and Robin Williams gather for a ceremony complicated by ancient infidelities that surface at just the wrong time. Based on the 2006 French movie Mon frere se marie, it's not a bad film by any means, and there is some fizz seeing Sarandon, Keaton and De Niro bounce off each other, verbally and physically. Yet the film seems stuck in first gear, seemingly reluctant to dial up its screwball potential. It doesn't help that two main characters, the bride-to-be's parents (played by David Rasche and Christine Ebersole) are suddenly side-lined in the final reel!
Fun Fact: Writer and first-time director Justin Zackham also wrote the 2007 smash hit The Bucket List. It was based on his own bucket list, the first item of which was to notch up a big studio film. The film, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, was such a hit the term "bucket list" entered the language.
DRIFT * (113 minutes) M
This lazy, over-long, poorly directed surf drama is the latest exhibit to suggest that 2013 is turning out to be a dud year for Australian film.
Myles Pollard (Sea Patrol; Underbelly; McLeod's Daughters) and Xavier Samuel (Twilight; The Loved Ones) headline as two 1970s surfing brothers who decide to divide their time between riding the waves of their no-name coastal town and starting up a surf gear manufacturing business.
The surfing footage is impressive, but the languid, choppy journey to making their dream come true is so full of cliches, thinly drawn characters and bad storytelling it raises the age-old issue of whether local screenplays are properly developed before going into production.
Local A-lister Sam Worthington (Avatar) adds some spark to the film as a slacker surf photographer, but it's not enough to make up for the idiot cops, the cardboard bikie/druglord villain (played regrettably by Steve Bastoni, a terrific actor), the haphazard drug-dealing sub-plot or the inevitable surf competition that brings the film to its predictable, unexciting climax.
Fun Fact: This is the first feature film for co-director Ben Nott, but Morgan O'Neill has form. He proved to be a dab hand at directing with his debut feature Solo (2006) and his American kidnap thriller The Factory (2011) was impressive. (It's now out on DVD and recommended for crime fans.) So it's something of a surprise to see the proficieny he brought to that film nowhere to be seen in Drift.
DESPITE THE GODS *** (85 minutes) 18+
Screens Monday, 6.30pm, Hoyts Melbourne Central as part of the Indian Film Festival.
Director Jennifer Lynch, daughter of David Lynch (Blue Velvet; Dune; Eraserhead) was still establishing herself as a director when she bravely took on the mantle of helming a Bollywood extravaganza. Her first film Boxing Helena (1993) made her a hated figure with its story of a man so in love with a woman he chops off her arms and legs so he can keep her in a box-shaped altar. With the psycho-drama Surveillance (2008) she showed a surer hand and a warped taste echoing her father's.
Subject to the whims of Indian film crews and weather, however, her movie-making mettle is repeatedly tested. Early on her demand for schedules and planning don't quite square with her crew; there are flare-ups and arguments, especially with her producer; but eventually her temperament adapts, helped in no small part by the presence of her high-IQ daughter, who tries relaxing her mother's ever-present anxieties about being overweight, single and middle-aged.
A very good film about filmmaking and the swirl of compromises it inevitably draws.