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.



Big Hero 6 (2014) Film Review


Hiro (Ryan Potter) is a genius teenager living in San Fransokyo, a mysterious future place which is part America, part Japan. After seeing the magnificent university where his brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) studies, he is inspired to give up his life of street robot fighting and find a way to use his genius in a different way. But then tragedy hits, and Hiro is left with Baymax (Scott Adsit), a blow-up medical robot Tadashi created. Hiro, Baymax and Tadashi’s colleagues from the university suit up and try to beat the baddie.

It’s a great film, with lots of sad moments, but also a lot of very funny moments. Baymax is absolutely gorgeous and delightful, and I challenge anyone to not totally love him. I think some sensitive children may find it a bit overly emotional, but it is really good film. Plus, there are more than one female character, and they are useful, and not everyone is white. That’s nice for a change.

Big Hero 6 was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film of the Year, for a Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature Film and for a BAFTA for Animated Feature Film.

The Queen (2006) Film Review


In the nineties, the British royal family were struggling. There were several divorces and the public were less and less engaged with royalty. Then Diana died and the country needed leadership. Very difficult for Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren), who was unwilling to break royal protocol for a woman she despised. Receiving conflicting advice from her husband, Prince Phillip (James Cromwell) and mother, the Queen Mother (Sylvia Syms) to her son Prince Charles (Alex Jennings) and Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen), these are the private struggles of a very private woman.

I enjoyed it. As a child and teenager, I grew up a bit of an Anglophile (though I’d blame The Goodies, Kenny Everett and The Young Ones more than the royal family). I was in the UK at the time that all of this madness happened (and by that, I mean the massive outpouring of grief and the media hounding the queen for a response. I’ve no idea if any of the behind the scenes stuff is vaguely close to being accurate, but it could be.

Helen Mirren won an Oscar for Best Performance in a Leading Role. The Queen was nominated for an Oscar for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Directing (Stephen Frears), Best Writing, Original Screenplay (Peter Morgan), Best Achievement in Costume Design and Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score.

I, Robot (2004) Film Review


It’s the future and robots are all over the place helping folks out. Del Spooner (Will Smith) is a cop haunted by his past. He was in a car accident where two cars ended up in a river. He was saved by a robot, but watched a young girl in the other car drown. But he is deeply suspicious of robots, and so when scientist friend Dr Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell) is found dead, apparent suicide, he investigates further. Helped by Lanning’s assistant Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan) who believes in the science and the power of the rules of robots that protect humans, he investigates as the robots revolt.

I loved the styling of this film – a hint of the big sci-fi films of the eighties, such as Total Recall, and the robot with a human face was creepy enough to be… well, creepy. It’s not a new concept, but it was an interesting take on the whole ‘robot revolution’ thing. Plus, Will Smith is a great action hero.

I, Robot was nominated for an Oscar for Best Achievement in Visual Effects.


Still Mine (2012) – Film Review


Craig Morrison (James Cromwell) and his wife Irene (Genevieve Bujold) live in rural New Brunswick, Canada on the large property they’ve owned for years. But, as Irene is mentally and physically deteriorating, Craig needs to find a solution. He starts a new project – building a small, one story house for the two of them. On a neighbour’s advice, he applies for a building permit and gets tied up in the red tape and bureaucracy that comes with it. Eventually, he is facing jail for not meeting codes despite years of knowledge and experience of building.

This is an extremely beautiful and moving film. Craig and Irene are so delightful, still deeply in love after so many years. It is hard to tell what is more frustrating in the film – the wife who is aware of her growing dementia; the husband who is desperately trying to find a way to make their lives work; or the mind-numbing, illogical paperwork. I think the building of the house plot was the focus of the film, but it was the dementia plot which I found more engaging. Though, having said that, the film handled much of the early stages of dementia quite gently and only dipped into the deeper, more distressing aspects of the disease.

James Cromwell won a Canadian Screen Award for his performance in Still Mine. The film was nominated for a six other Canadian Screen awards including Best Motion Picture, and received second place in the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

Still Mine is screening across Melbourne from Thursday June 6.

The Green Mile (1999) Film Review


Jeez, that Stephen King can really write-up a storm, can’t he? He’s known for his horrors, like The Shining and It, but then you get the truly amazing, like Stand By Men, Shawshank Redemption and this, The Green Mile. These are his books and short stories; they make for great stories to be made into films.

The Green Mile is told as a flashback from a man in a nursing home, telling the story of his time as a guard on death row during the depression. In particular, of the time during which John Coffey, a large African-American man was brought in. Everyone was fearful of this giant, but there was a magic to the man, a magic that is gradually revealed to the guards.

I’ve recently been contemplating the old man/old woman flashback as a structure. Often, it doesn’t work. Halfway through The Green Mile, I wondered about this as a choice of structure, but it truly does pay off at the end. The film is slow-paced and long – over three hours long. But every minute counts.

The excellent plot is held together by strong performances;  Tom Hanks, David Morse and several others as the prison guards; the late Michael Clarke Duncan as John Coffey; James Cromwell as the Warden; and Graham Greene and Sam Rockwell as fellow prisoners.

I think this is a truly excellent film. Truly.

The Green Mile was nominated for Oscars for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Michael Clarke Duncan), Pest Picture, Best Sound and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published.