A Christmas Carol vs A Christmas Carol – TV Review and Audio Book Review *spoiler alert*

Guy Pearce features as Ebeneezer Scrooge in this three-part TV adaptation of the classic Dickens novella. We all know the story… Scrooge is a grump who hates Christmas and people and life in general, and he employs Bob Cratchit (Joe Alwyn) who is barely making his meagre wage stretch to keep his family going. He grumbles about giving Cratchit the day off for Christmas and calls everything Christmas ‘humbug’. Then, on Christmas Eve, he is visited by the ghost of his dead business partner, Jacob Marley (Stephen Graham) who warns that Scrooge must change his ways. Scrooge is then visited by three ghosts, Christmas Past, Present and Future, who show him visions that make him a nice person who loves Christmas and is generous and kind.

The television show takes a lot of liberties with the story, adding subplots and backstory to give Scrooge reason for being the way he is, giving a much larger role to Bob’s wife, Mary (Vinette Robinson), giving Jacob Marley reason to be as he is. Given I’d never read the novella, I wondered just much had been changed. Time to rectify that: I got an audiobook and listened to it. There are heaps of versions of A Christmas Carol available on Audible, with a wide variety of readers, but in the end, I settled on Sir Patrick Stewart, and I was very happy with this decision. The only thing was that this was 1hr 40 while others were over 3 hours. I’ve been back and can’t see that it was an abridged version, so I can’t really explain it.

The original novella is sparce, telling a good story well, though it does feel that Scrooge very quickly atones and changes. I wonder if just the concept of ghosts was more scary back in the 1840s, or if the creators of the TV show decided that today’s audience needed more. I liked that there was more of Mary and the family in the TV show, though suggesting magical powers seemed a stretch. Several of the reveals of Scrooge’s past seemed to either be giving him and excuse for being an arsehole, or making him more evil rather than just grumpy. All seemed valid within the world created, especially his poor business practices.

For me, I don’t think all of the expanded and reimagined parts of the tale were great choices, but I enjoyed the beauty of the show. I felt the terror of Scrooge (and his attempts to excuse or reason the visions he was having), and I felt that regardless of whether the audience was sympathetic or not, his change of attitude seemed genuine. Overall, I reckon definitely worth a watch.

L.A. Confidential (1997) Film Review


The LA Police Department is crooked – beating confessions from the criminals, setting them up, being on the take – and they’ve been getting away with it for a long time. Then along comes clean-cut, glasses wearing Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), a man who is going to do things by the book. Then there is Bud White (Russell Crowe), a thug of a cop who does what he is told, but has a depth that he only exposes to his girlfriend, high-class prostitute Lynn Bracken (Kim Basinger). Several conspiracies start to come to light, exposed by or involving celebrity cop Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey), tabloid reporter Sid Hudgens (Danny DeVito) and the big police boss Dudley Smith (James Cromwell).

Watching this twenty years ago, I didn’t get why it was so loved and so respected. It’s got a lot going on, but I just couldn’t engage. I felt that way about it this time until about half an hour from the end – and then everything seemed to click. Now, a day later, parts are still popping into my mind. I can’t say that I loved the film, but I get it. And there is a lot to like and respect about it – very clever and interesting. Definitely worth it.

L.A. Confidential won Oscars for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Kim Basinger) and Best Writing, Screenplay based on Material Previously Produced or Published (Brian Helgeland, Curtis Hanson) and was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director (Curtis Hanson), Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction-Set Direction, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Music – Original Dramatic Score.



The Proposition (2005) Film Review


Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone) is a British man living in the middle of the hot, harsh outback with his wife, Martha (Emily Watson). He has captured two notorious outlaws, the ‘simple’ Mike Burns (Richard Wilson) and his brother, Charlie (Guy Pearce). Stanley makes a deal with Charlie for him to find his even more wicked brother, Arther (Danny Huston) and bring him in, or else he and Mike will hang for the rape and murder of the Hopkins family. Charlie accepts the deal, leaving Mike in jail, but it is not a smooth process on either end, and has many tragic consequences.

It is a very hard film; beautiful but harsh scenery, an amazing and torturous soundtrack by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, and strong, painful performances, most notably from Ray Winstone. There is no hope for anyone. This country will destroy them, whether it the indigenous culture destroyed and seeking some kind of vengeance, the legacy of white settlement made up of criminals or

the harshness of the land itself, there is no hope. I wouldn’t recommend this film if you are feeling a bit down. It’s tough, but wonderful.


Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2010) Film Review


Sally (Bailee Madison) is a creepy and annoying young girl who moves into a mysterious old Gothic mansion with her father, Alex (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend, Kim (Katie Holmes). Alex is doing up the mansion when Sally discovers these fairy creatures that she initially thinks are good and ace but turn out to be scary.

This film was written by Guillermo del Toro and I guess I was fooled by my love of Pan’s Labyrinth into thinking this may be a beautiful, artistic film with some heart and stuff. And perhaps there is an attempt to have that heart, but it lost me. I found all the characters cold and I could not engage with them, I kept hoping the kid would be taken by these creatures and even Guy Pearce could not save it for me. What I enjoyed the most was playing ‘spot the Aussie actors’ – it was filmed in Melbourne, and there were a lot of familiar faces.

The Road (2009) Film Review


There has been some kind of nuclear incident (it’s not explained in too much detail) and the world is dying. Man (Viggo Mortensen) is walking with Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) heading south, hoping to find warmth and food as the nuclear winter continues to descend on them. The world is grey and horrible, everything is dead, there are no animals, no living plants, and the few survivors will do anything to survive.

Depressing? Well yes, very much so. The film has captured the dark and awful tones of the novel by Cormac McCarthy, and show a man who still has some hope for his son’s ultimate survival, against all the odds and perhaps even against any sense. The film does have an odd thing going for it, and that it is the soundtrack; by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, the music gives a strange and mysterious sense of hope. This juxtaposition shouldn’t work, yet it is perfect.


Jack Irish – Dead Point – TV Review


The key background is that Jack Irish was married, but his wife died. He had been a criminal lawyer, but is now a kind of private detective, lives alone (although has a relationship of some manner with Linda (Marta Dusseldorp)), does some work with horse punter Harry Strang (Roy Billing) and his offsider Cam Delroy(Aaron Pedersen), and likes to do carpentry in his spare time. Now, Jack has been introduced to his new niece – the daughter of his wife’s sister. His wife’s father, Justice Loder (Barry Humphries) has asked him to look into the death of a junkie who was blackmailing him, and he discovers a very dangerous underbelly to the city he loves.

Jack Irish is a complex and broken character whose loyalty and dedication to the cause leave us wanting to see him succeed. One thing I really love about this is that things are taken to the extreme; people die and big, horrible stuff happens. But it is excellent Australian television making, with strong scriptwriting, excellent production and a wonderful cast. And the touches of humour mostly brought by the scenes at the Fitzroy Youth Club (apparently, the bar was rebuilt into a set for the filming, but it feels totally genuine. For a Jack Irish experience, head to the Napier in Fitzroy for a pot).

The Hurt Locker (2008) Film Review


Bloody hell. This film is a dramatic torment from beginning to end. Following Sergeant JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) as they deal with a new and seemingly reckless Sergeant First Class William James (Jeremy Renner). The three work in bomb disposal in Iraq, specialising in IEDs, and every event they go to is a tense situation with the potential to kill them.

The film is just so incredibly intense and wonderful. I’m not sure if it is an accurate representation of war, but it seems like it probably is. And it is awful and hot and dirty and repulsive. And wonderful.

The Hurt Locker won Oscars for  Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Directing (Kathryn Bigelow), Best Writing, Original Screenplay (Mark Boal), Best Achievement in Film Editing, Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, Best Achievement in Sound Editing and was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Jeremy Renner),  Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Music Written for the Motion Pictures, Original Score.

Lawless (2012) Film Review


The Bondurant brothers are bootleggers working in rural Virginia, managing stills in the hills and running spirits into towns. Legend is that the brothers are indestructible, which seems likely during several of the particularly violent and gory scenes in this exceptionally violent and gory film. Things are going well for the Bondurant brothers, with young Jack (Shia LaBeouf) finally stepping up into the business. Then there is a new lawman in town – the ever-creepy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) and things getting rapidly worse.

I am currently addicted to Boardwalk Empire and have been enjoying the Ken Burns documentary on the prohibition that’s been playing on SBS. It was great to see the other side of the prohibition, especially tied in with aspects of the depression. But it wasn’t the plot that made the film for me. It was the characters. In many ways, Jack was the weak link of the characters. I didn’t want him to get cocky. He spent his life not living up to his brothers, and I just wanted him to do what he needed to and not be an idiot. But, without him being an idiot, it would have been a different story. It just seemed a bit clichéd to have one character’s arrogance bring down the whole story. The annoyingness of Jack was by far outweighed by the other marvelous characters, most notably for me, Charlie Rakes. Guy Pearce looks incredibly creepy in this role, with his shaved parting and his foppish suits, but it was the coldness behind his camp behaviour that made him the evil character that he was. In direct contrast was Tom Hardy’s portrayal of Forrest Bondurant. Straight talking, when he talked. A man with no airs, no graces and certainly no bullshit. Yet he was the criminal that the audience sided with and loved.

Lawless looks into a time in the world where people were struggling and the line between legal and moral was blurred.  It’s a great yarn. Enjoy it.

Iron Man Three (2013) Film Review


Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jnr) is having panic attacks brought on by the alien attack in New York (The Avengers). On top of this, there is a super criminal, The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) who is taking over the airwaves to threaten the President of the US. And then there are these glowing people. They glow orange, as though they are full of lava. It’s weird.

Iron Man Three was everything I wanted it to be. Really evil bad guys, Robert Downey Jnr being funny and sexy, Don Cheadle getting to do some cool running and shooting. I don’t like Gwenyth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, but I think that’s because this character is a bit wet, and I’d like her to be a bit more… something. It’s not that she’s not strong – she runs the company and she stands up to Stark like no-one else. I just don’t like her as a character. I do like Paltrow, and need to see her doing something better, thanks. Oh, and then there is Guy Pearce, and I really cannot say often enough just how much I love his acting. He’s just fabulous.

Stay through the credits – as with all of these recent Marvel films, there’s a little bonus bit at the end. Especially if you like Mark Ruffalo.

Bad Debts and Black Tide – Jack Irish on the TV


Last year, two of Peter Temple’s Jack Irish books were turned into television movies. Guy Pearce played the role of Jack Irish. For me, having Guy Pearce in a production is enough to get me to watch; possibly with the exception of Prometheus, he picks interesting roles and I enjoy his performances.

Jack Irish is a former criminal lawyer whose wife was killed and he went on a downward spiral. After emerging from rock bottom, he has become a private detective and debt collector. In each film, the course of his work leads him to a situation that he wants to look into in greater detail. There is danger and violence, but nothing over-the-top and Hollywood. Overall, it is a very Melbourne production, from the pub with all of the Fitzroy memorabilia where Jack likes to share a drink with the old blokes who hold up the bar (the Napier in Fitzroy, in case you were wondering) to the bluestone alleys.

Producer Ian Collie has announced that he plans to turn the next two Jack Irish novels into television movies, and has optioned the fifth, which is yet to be published. Fabulous news; with the majority of Australian-produced television being reality television or soap opera, it is wonderful to know that there will be some good quality Australian drama to come.