Jurassic World

Anybody who has seen Jurassic Park or its follow-ups will know exactly what to expect with Jurassic World. There is nothing new in this latest incarnation of the dinosaur franchise that sets it apart from the original film/s. In fact, it really seems that this is a reboot designed entirely to attract an audience not overly familiar with the originals because there is no real narrative or character connections with the previous chapters other than the setting and the basic premise; a theme park established on an island near Costa Rica that is essentially a zoo for dinosaurs. The island is plunged into chaos when a genetically modified super-dinosaur escapes captivity. Nothing that happens in this film, nor who it happens to, comes as a surprise and given the record-breaking box office figures it has racked up, it seems that is just how audiences like it. All the requisite characters are in place; a couple of moppets in danger, a cocky hero and the girl who loves him but can’t bring herself to admit it, a mad scientist, the billionaire owner and the obligatory bad guy whose fate is a foregone conclusion the minute he appears on screen. In fact, several of the characters are so clichéd in their construction and their demise so inevitable that our only interest in them is the fun to be had in guessing when, and how, they will be despatched. This is formulaic filmmaking writ large in which digital effects and technical wizardry are privileged over characterisation, performance, logic and common sense.

Jurassic World poster

Some 22 years after the first failed attempt to establish a dinosaur habitat on Isla Nublar, a fully-functioning theme park is now in operation. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) manages the facility and, desperate for a new attraction to lure tourists, has commissioned the creation of a new hybrid species. Needless to say, the man in charge of this creation (Dr Henry Wu, played by Law & Order’s BD Wong) goes a little overboard in his experimentation and the result is Indominous Rex, a creature bigger and more intelligent than anybody could have imagined. Rex escapes, chaos reigns, people die and the hero saves the day.  Sound familiar? This is a far cry from the low-key yet delightful sci-fi comedy Safety Not Guaranteed, the previous film from director Colin Trevorrow.

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The hero in this instance is Owen, played by Chris Pratt, a former Navy operative who is the Velociraptor equivalent of Steve Irwin or an old-school circus lion tamer. Pratt is playing the exact type of character that he did in Guardians of the Galaxy, only lumbered with a screenplay lacking the wit that made his adventures in space so enjoyable. With thousands of tourists in danger, including Claire’s two nephews who have, of course, disregarded instructions to exit the park, she teams with Owen to save the day, all the while being undermined by Vincent D’Onofrio’s Hoskins, a military man who sees the potential of using the Raptors in combat situations. Despite traipsing through mud and thick jungle and finding herself in imminent danger on numerous occasions, Claire never removes her high heels and one can only think that perhaps she was planning to emerge on the Cannes red carpet. The relationship and interaction between Owen and Claire is a throwback to Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone, which only serves to further emphasise the lack of originality here.

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With the possible exception of Owen, almost all of the characters are so uninteresting and unlikeable that it is hard to care what happens. In fact, you want bad things to happen to them, particularly sullen teenager Zach (Nick Robinson) and is cry-baby younger brother Gray (Ty Simpkins). Jake Johnson’s character is indistinguishable from his role on television sitcom The New Girl, while Irrfan Khan’s resort owner Masrani is a somewhat superfluous presence. Judy Greer’s inclusion is a plus, although she is criminally underutilised as Claire’s sister Karen, and Lauren Lapkus (Orange is the New Black) is also a welcome addition. Yes, you can just sit back and enjoy the carnage as the villains get their comeuppance, but the gore really is somewhat subdued here, reduced to a few blood splatters. Needless to say, anybody looking for insight into the morality or ethics of genetic engineering and species regeneration will be very disappointed. Yes, the visual effects are great – outstanding in fact – and there is no doubt that Jurassic World will be a great commercial success, but that doesn’t make it a great film.

Teneriffe Music Line-Up Finalised

The complete music program for the Teneriffe Festival this weekend has been finalised and more than 30 artists encompassing myriad musical styles will feature across four stages throughout the festival precinct. From talented newcomers to popular local perfomers to national and international artists, there is certainly plenty of musical variety on offer for festival goers throughout the day.

Teneriffe

The 2015 Teneriffe Festival is on from 10:00am this Saturday (July 4) in Vernon Terrace and surrounds. In addition to the music program, there will be over 100 market stalls and food options galore, including the annual Pork, Fork & Cork Festival in London Laneway. There will also be children’s activites and entertainment in Kids World, along with historical tours and displays.

The full music program at the 2015 Teneriffe Festival is as follows:

Nova Stage

10:00am – Jack Tully

11:00am – Emma Beau

12:00pm – Mike David

1:00pm – Josh Rennie-Hynes

2:00pm – Amela

3:00pm – Brad Butcher

4:00pm – Colin Lillee

5:00pm – Deena

6:00pm – Pete Cullen

7:00pm – Jake Whittaker

London Laneway Tiki Stage

10:30am – Dream Girl

11:45am – Pool Shop

1:00pm – Miel

2:30pm – The Jensens

4:00pm – Tundra

5:00pm – DJ Matt Lapish

7:30pm – DJ Cliftonia

Merthyr Village Street Stage

10:15am – Neon Tiger

11:45am – Wayward Smith

1:15pm – Eden Mulholland

2:45pm – Picture Perfect

4:00pm – Sahara Beck

5:15pm – Babaganouj

6:30pm – Mosman Alder

8:00pm – Moses Gunn Collective

Mirvac River Stage

11:15am – Malo Zima

12:45pm – Creature Kind

2:15pm – Garret Kato

3:45pm – Jason Kerrison

5:00pm – Selahphonic

6:15pm – Slip on Stereo

7:30pm – Cheap Fakes

For more information about the Teneriffe Festival, head to the festival website.

There is always a great vibe at the Teneriffe Festival and Mr C Media will be there to capture all of the action.

For photos from last years festival, click here.

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Now Screening on Mr C Media

Actress Rose McGowan has been in the headlines over the last week or so following her social media post highlighting the sexism that exists in Hollywood (as if we didn’t know already). The controversy has perhaps overshadowed the release of Dawn, a short film directed by McGowan that is now available on You Tube.

McGowan

This is one of several new short films that have been added to the Short Films Screening Room on Mr C Media.

Other films added recently include Actor Seeks Role starring Dylan Baker and Alex Karpovsky (Girls) and Imagine, a film made by 17-year-old Carl Mason hoping to raise awareness about Niemann-Pick Type C, a rare genetic disease that causes neurological decline and shuts down the body’s critical functions.

New content will be added to the various screening rooms regularly and recommendations/submissions are always welcome.

Love & Mercy

Musicians have always been great fodder as the subjects of film biographies, whether they be fictionalised retellings such as the likes of Walk the Line and Ray or documentary productions such as the recent Cobain: Montage of Heck or Amy, the subjects are chosen for reason beyond the music that they have created.  There is always a much bigger story at play as talented individual’s battle to overcome all manner of personal and/or professional demons, not always with success. Sometimes, these stories end tragically, while others result in stirring fight backs from the edge of oblivion as our heroes resurrect their lives and their careers. The latest addition to this genre is Love & Mercy, a film that explores the life (or parts thereof) of Beach Boys founding member and all-round musical legend Brian Wilson. The parallel narratives examine two very specific periods in Wilson’s life, specifically the 1960’s and the 1980’s. Like many of those chronicled on film before him, such as Johnny Cash and Amy Winehouse, Wilson is an artist blessed with immense talent but plagued by psychological and emotional shortcomings that have threatened to destroy much more than his career.

Love & Mercy poster

Like Winehouse, Wilson surrounded himself with people whose motives were in complete contrast to his best interests and, as such, this influence played itself out in ways that pushed him to the brink. However, unlike the British chanteuse, Wilson has been able to avoid capitulation to the forces determined to destroy him and has, like Cash before him, been able to emerge to the embrace of a career revival that puts his music at the forefront of his public profile. For the uninitiated, Wilson is the man responsible for almost the entire Beach Boys catalogue, including their smash hit Good Vibrations, the protracted recording of which is covered extensively in the film and demonstrates emphatically both Wilson’s undeniable genius and capacity for eccentric behaviour. To his great credit, producer-turned-director Bill Pohlad has refrained from excessive use of Wilson’s songs, for the most part utilising them only when they serve the narrative.

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Paul Dano and John Cusack play Wilson at the two stages of his career and whilst both men are excellent, it is Dano who really shines as the younger incarnation. With the band enjoying great success, the stress of travelling and performing live has left Wilson wanting out of touring, preferring to concentrate on writing new music. However, with his ideas putting him increasingly at loggerheads with the rest of the group, tensions rise and Wilson’s inner demons – in part due to physical and psychological damage inflicted by an abusive father – overwhelm him and lead to the breakdown in his relationships with the band and his family. In the 1980’s, Wilson is under the control (quite literally) of unscrupulous psychotherapist Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti). Suffering from auditory hallucinations but diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic by Landy, Wilson is under constant surveillance from bodyguards and consumes massive amounts of psychotropic drugs prescribed by the dodgy doctor that ultimately cause the onset of a neurological disorder. Despite this, he meets and falls for car saleswoman Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks) and it is she who ultimately plays a very significant role in freeing Wilson from Landy’s grasp.

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Giamatti is so oh-so-effective in his portrayal of Landy, a man so rude to everyone around him that you just want to punch him in the face. Whilst not blessed with the opportunities afforded her male co-stars, Banks is fine enough as Melinda, to whom Wilson remains married to this day. The fact that you can’t tell whether the filmmakers have simply inserted Dano into historical concert footage of the band, or whether the scenes have been completely reproduced from scratch, is testament to the overall quality of the production. The decision to focus on two distinct periods of time is also the right call as Love & Mercy doesn’t suffer as a result of trying to tell a story that, in its entirety, is simply too long to fit a feature film format. Despite the fact that Dano and Cusack don’t look much alike, the combination works well and the colour palettes provide a clear distinction between the two eras. Pohlad has also created a soundscape in which the aural elements serve to heighten our sense of connection with Wilson. We hear what he his hearing, or at least that is how it feels.  It is unusual to see a movie as uncompromising as Love & Mercy while the subject is still alive because, whilst Wilson is certainly a sympathetic figure, it doesn’t always show him in a flattering light.  It is certainly fitting though that, as the credits roll, we see the real Wilson performing the song from which the film’s title is taken.  This is a terrific biopic that might (should) bring some award season recognition for the two men who have so effectively captured the talent and torment of this most enigmatic artist.

The Mafia Only Kills in Summer

Whilst it has been very well received in Europe, I can only assume that there is a particular cultural connection that has played a part in its success because, whilst it is amusing at times, The Mafia Only Kills in Summer is a problematic attempt at delivering a satirical examination of life in Palermo, Italy throughout the ‘70’s and ‘80’s when the Sicilian Mafia (Cosa Notra) were seemingly free to engage in all manner of deadly violence at will. Akin to Forrest Gump in that it incorporates historical footage within the fictional narrative and similar to Life is Beautiful in that the uses humour to explore an issue that is not typically regarded as amusing – namely the murder of priests, politicians and judges – The Mafia Only Kills is Summer is, like both of these films, plagued by a lead character who is very, very annoying. The Mafia Only Kills in Summer wants to be many things – comedy, drama, romance – and, as a result, the mood fluctuates from scene to scene.

Mafia Only Kills in Summer poster

Writer/director Pierfrancesco Diliberto – who is apparently a television satirist of some repute in Italy – is utterly devoid of charisma or charm as Arturo, a bumbling n’er-do-well whose life is inexplicably linked to the mafia murders that occur at regular intervals, a premise that is proffered in the opening minute or so when Arturo declares, via voiceover, that his conception occurred at the exact same moment that a notorious mafia hit known as the Lazio Street Massacre was taking place in the same building. The first portion of the film centres on Arturo as a schoolboy (Alex Bisconti) obsessed with both Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti and Flora, the new girl in class. His efforts to impress Flora (Ginevra Antona) never pan out as planned and when he is persistently being told by the adults in his life that the various killings around town are men being punished for their dalliances with women, he starts to worry about the potential perils of falling in love. Of course, we can’t ignore the fact that blaming women for the violence – even if it was simply as a means of trying to avoid explaining the real reasons for the bloodshed – is, at best, a somewhat simplistic narrative contrivance and, at worst, a reflection of a misogynistic mindset. When Flora’s father finds himself in the sights of an investigation into his mafia connections, she is whisked off to Switzerland.

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Gender politics aside, the first half of the film is the best as the young Arturo, who is a cross between Sam from Wes Anderson’s Moonlight Kingdom and Dewey from TV’s Malcolm in the Middle, plots ways to secure Flora’s interest. Interspersed amongst this cutesy romantic pursuit is news reportage and video footage of real mafia murders, with fictionalised versions of some of the victims amongst the people that Arturo meets.  These images offer only the briefest glimpse of the violence that ensued during this period and the film certainly suggests a degree of nonchalance amongst the population with regard to the attacks. It is when we are expected to accept the 40-something Diliberto as a young man still trying to find his place in the world that credibility becomes stretched almost to breaking point. Without a job and having achieved nothing of consequence, Arturo is hired as a keyboard player on a television talk show (even though there has been no inkling of any musical talent until now). When Flora (played as an adult by Cristiana Capotondi) returns to Palermo as an advisor to a political candidate, Arturo is smitten all over again and sets out to make amends for his past failings.

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The sudden changes in tone from comic romance to moments of violence are disconcerting and it is difficult to know exactly what Diliberto’s intention is with regard this approach. It seems that perhaps he is trying to demonstrate how the vast majority of those living in Palermo simply went about their lives in the midst of the rampant corruption and criminality. Ultimately though, it is not the lack of clarity in this regard that hampers The Mafia Only Kills in Summer the most, it is the fact that it is simply hard to believe in, or like for that matter, the lead character. A political comedy lampooning the mafia is a noble, and perhaps brave, undertaking, but ultimately the film comes across as self-indulgence more so than a meaningful dialogue on criminality, which might be easy enough to overlook if the romance narrative offered something new.

Scandi Film Fest for Brisbane

If Japanese cinema isn’t your thing (see Cult Japan at Cinemateque), then maybe Scandinavian cinema is more to your liking. Next month, the Scandinavian Film Festival will be held at Palace Centro cinemas, with films from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden to feature on the program, which kicks off on Thursday, July 16 with opening night film Here is Harold.

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The festival runs until July 26 with more than 20 films from which to choose including Young Sophie Bell, the winner of Best Film at the Stockholm Film Festival, and Homesick, which featured at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The closing night film is Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words, a documentary that celebrates the life and career of Ingrid Bergman, Sweden’s most beloved and celebrated actress.

For pricing and program information, visit Palace Cinemas or the festival website.