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Jim Schembri’s New Release Move Reviews Thu 12 Oct, 2017

MML

Jim interviews Anna Samson, Romi Trower (What If It Works?) & Karina Holden, ARINA HOLDEN, DR JENNIFER LAVERS (Blue)

 PIC: Take my hand: Kate Winslet and Idris Elba trudge through an avalanche of survival-movie cliches in The Mountain Between Us

THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US **1/2 (112 minutes) M

Oh Lordy, how good this film could have been! Idris Elba and Kate Winslet play two well-off professionals – a doctor on his way to emergency surgery; a journalist on her way to her wedding – who share a small aircraft rather than be stuck at the airport by an incoming snow storm.

With a crusty Beau Bridges at the controls and his dog the only other passenger you can bet your sense of impending doom that the bunch of ’em end up off-course and crashed into the top of a mountain.

Now, how best to survive? Panic or stay calm? Wait for rescue or move? Keep all thoughts to yourself or share your life with your fellow survivor until you feel like you really, you know, know them?

Those and the rest of the standard list of survival-movie cliches get a reasonably entertaining, if entirely predictable, warming over in this handsome-looking time killer.

Oscar-darling director Hany Abu-Assad (Paradise Now; Omar) does an efficient, by-the-numbers job showing just how studio-friendly he can be by shying away from anything really touchy.

This is a pity. Given the scenario, why do things have to be so safe and non-threatening? Wouldn’t it have been great if Kate & Idra hated each other, turning this into the plane-crash version of The Defiant Ones? Or something? Just thinking out loud, Hollywood.

 

GOOD TIME *** (99 minutes) MA

A barely recognizable Robert Pattinson (Twilight; Lost City of Z) puts in a sterling central performance as a low-life crim trying to help his brother in an off-beat crime drama that consists almost entirely of plot detours.

As the gruff, street-smart Connie, he tries helping his mentally challenged brother Nick (Ben Safdie, who directed the film with his brother Josh) escape police custody.

One bad move inevitably leads to another as Connie desperately tries keeping the chaos around him from swirling any faster.

Ultimately, the film might not really go anywhere, but the journey is nonetheless captivating, with Pattinson proving his versatility once again.

 

HAPPY DEATH DAY *** (96 minutes) M

It’s Groundhog Day: The Horror Movie as slutty college girl Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is murdered on campus by a typical Halloween-mask wearing maniac, then wakes up at the start of that day, trapped in the same-day cycle until she can work out who her killer is.

As self-consciously derivative as the horror genre is, this effort chimes in as a neat, effective exercise in borrowing from across the genre divide. Rothe does a good job as her character’s headspace becomes increasingly frantic and exasperated.

 

THE ONLY LIVING BOY IN NEW YORK *** (89 minutes) M

Hot on the heels of Gifted, director Marc Webb (who also did the two Spider-man reboot movies) delivers another soulful arthouse drama, though this one is a tad more earthy.

Set in the literary world of upper-class, present-day New York we witness the adventures of Thomas (Callum Turner), a young scribe whose talents are so specialised his own father (Pierce Brosnan) won’t publish him.

Striking up a friendship with a local eccentric (Jeff Bridges in Dude – The Elder mode), Thomas discovers his dad cheating on his ailing mother (Cynthia Nixon) and attempts to confront the woman (Kate Beckinsale). Things go quickly off-the-rails, however, once he comes to understand the full danger of her allure.

An engaging, adult-oriented treat, with Bridges in fine form as an Obi Wan-type mentor and Beckinsale ageless as ever.

 

WHAT IF IT WORKS? **1/2 (96 minutes) M

Set largely in the mural-covered back lanes of Melbourne, first-time writer/director Romi Trower delivers a bitter-sweet, occasionally jagged romantic comedy about Adrian (Luke Ford), a man with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and Grace (Anna Samson), a young woman with more personalities than she can handle.

They share the same therapist (Kaarin Fairfax), the same street and the same stirrings of romance, but the realities of their afflictions makes connection very difficult, and a little dangerous.

Dealing with mental illness has got to be one of the most precarious balancing acts a director can take on, and while Samson is super-impressive in her role(s), Ford’s twitchy, diffident turn feels a little forced.

The film looks fine, with kudos to seasoned cinematographer Ian Jones (Charlie’s Country; The King is Dead; The Tracker) for making an obviously tiny budget look so good. One does wonder if the day will ever come when a local, lo-cost filmmaker will enjoy the luxury of an extended schedule rather than the usual flurry of production.

Romi Trower and Anna Samson were kind enough to sit down for a deep-dive discussion about the movie, the perils of low-budget filmmaking – Trower was stricken with back problems and had to direct some scenes via Skype! – and what the Australian cinema landscape looks like at the moment.

Samson, who has a strong theatrical background, also discusses her remarkable range. As well as her multiple roles in What If It Works?, she appears in the mini-series Wake in Fright as the frightening, gun-loving Outback villainess Mick Jaffries.

Almost unrecognisable in the role, Samson explains how she thinks her audition convinced director Kriv Stenders to go against his original concept for the character by casting her.

She also details the work she put into portraying somebody with Dissociative Identity Disorder in What if it Works?, which she also had to fight for in her audition. Please enjoy.

 

BLUE ***1/2 (76 minutes) PG

What happens when you treat the oceans as an infinitely huge food source and, at the same time, an infinitely huge dumping ground for garbage?

This fine, fact-backed environmental doco presents the trouble our oceans are in, especially when it comes to the level of plastic pollution being so huge the stuff has entered the food chain.

Aussie director Karina Holden has assembled a very stirring, thought-provoking, occasionally shocking visual report on the dire state of the seas. Moments of beauty are countered by images that make the eyes water and jolt the conscience.

The starkest example is the damage carelessly discarded plastic has on distant birdlife. Out in the middle of the ocean birds starve to death because they mistake our plastic garbage for food. Even the most hard-hearted and cynical will find some scenes painful to watch as the contents of a bird’s stomach are revealed.

Karina Holden and marine biologist Dr Jennifer Lavers were kind enough to sit down with us to discuss the film in detail. In particular, Dr Lavers explains the plight of those birds. Please enjoy.

 

by:
MML
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