Fences (2016) Film Review

Based on the award wining stage play, Fences follows the lives of Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) and his wife Rose (Viola Davis) in their working class existence of 1950s Pittsburgh. They have to deal with the changing world, along with Troy being the most annoying character – and by this, I mean that he feels that the world has treated him bad and will not allow himself to see anyone elses point of view.

I think it would have been an amazing play. I think all of the actors in this film would have been incredible onstage in these roles – looking at Wikipedia, Washington and Davis starred in the remake of the 1983 play on Broadway in 2010 and both won Tonys for their performances. For me, the film does work, but really as a filmed version of the play – which is wonderful for all of us who didn’t get to Broadway to see the remake.

Viola Davis won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for Fences, and the film was nominated for Oscars Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Denzel Washington) and Best Adapted Screenplay (August Wilson, nominated posthumously). It was also nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama (Denzel Washington) and won the BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress for Viola Davis.

Ender’s Game (2013) Film Review


It’s a futuristic world where the world had been attacked by some aliens and a hero saved them. Now, for a reason that wasn’t totally clear to me, kids are recruited to fight, and it is only the cream of the crop, the best of the best, who get through, chosen by Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) and Major Anderson (Viola Davis). Ender (Asa Butterfield) comes along and proves the be the best of the best of the best, provided he can get through training.

I didn’t really expect to like this film all that much – I thought it might be a bit earnest and really for the kids, but I really enjoyed it. I didn’t like the end all that much, but the fighting scenes were quiet cool and I really liked the way the characters developed, kids becoming really adult like.

Doubt (2008) Film Review


New York, 1964. Sister James (Amy Adams) is a young nun at a Catholic school which is ruled over by the tyrannical principal, Sister Beauvier (Meryl Streep). When Sister Beauvier suspects untoward behaviour from the priest Father Flynn (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), she will stop at nothing to ensure his demise.

It’s interesting to watching this film around the same time as watching Atonement. Atonement has a young girl who suspects the worst from a series of events leading to the ruination of several people’s lives. Doubt is almost the opposite, with another young (although a fair bit older) woman being led to certain conclusions by another.

Molestation by priests and other people in positions of authority keeps being revealed, as is the cover-up by some institutions. This film looks at the issue in a different way; if you suspected this behaviour but have no evidence, what can you do? Is it better to wait for evidence knowing that children may be suffering in the meantime? Or can you ruin a man’s reputation and career on the whisper of fact?

The film doesn’t attempt to arrive at an answer to this conundrum, but follows the three main characters as they find their own way through. It is a very, very good film; emotional without being hysterical, and it really leaves you questioning these huge issues. Then again, as is typical with the cover-up of the institution, it’s not as though the priest is ostracised or jailed for his suspected crime. Just moved on to another area. Ah, institutions like the church. How cross you make me.

Doubt was nominated for Oscars for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Merryl Streep), Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Amy Adams), Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role  (Viola Davis) and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011) Film Review


This review originally appeared on www.melbournegeek.com in March 2012.

Jonathan Safran Foer is one of my favourite authors. His two fictions Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close are two of my favourite ever books. I love the humour and absurdity and heart of his writing. At the cinema recently, I saw the trailer for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close  and my heart sank. It looked awful. The problem is the marketing.

This is not a film about September 11.

But this is how it is being marketed, and I think that’s really wrong. Yes, (spoiler alert) the father died in one of the towers. This film is not about that – it’s about his son and how he deals (and cannot deal) with his grief. This is why I cried for two hours watching it.

At first, I was not happy with the choice of Thomas Horn as Oskar – he just wasn’t my Oskar, my little, nervous, weird, precocious Oskar. Plus he seems more like eleven or twelve than nine. As the film went on, he grew on me, and apart from a couple of overly schmaltzy, emotional moments, he was great. Especially the way he wields that tambourine! The casting of Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock was a mistake, I reckon. I mean, they are both so recognisable that it is hard to see them as anything other than who they are, and I found it hard to separate that. Mind you, they both made me cry, so I guess they had their acting chops on.

I wonder if the reviewers who are hating this film have read the book.

I wonder if it is my absolute love of this book that has lead me to love the film – I don’t need to try to understand it. I’ve been through all the disbelief and incredulousness as I read (how can anyone let a nine-year-old wander around New York on his own like that?) and was able to just enjoy the ride. This is a clear example of when a trailer ruins a film; don’t watch the trailer. And when you see this film, take lots of tissues.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was nominated for Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Max Von Sydow)

The Help (2011) Film Review


It’s the 1960s and Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone) has returned to her home in Jackson, Mississippi after completing college. She takes a job at the paper writing a cleaning column, however having had a maid throughout her life, she needs help. Enlisting the assistance of one of her childhood friend’s maids, Aibileen, she becomes aware of the attitude of the rich, white families to their staff. Surreptitiously, she collects the stories of the maids which is published in a book that becomes a best seller, but which promises to shock all of Jackson.

It’s a good film. (I’ve heard that the book is marvellous, and someday, I will get to that). It has heart and struggle. Look, I’ve seen a lot of films that tell stories of the deep south prior to the civil rights movement, and this isn’t one of the most hardhitting. It’s entertaining and it tells a good story. Does it need to be more than that?