Monthly Archives: October, 2014

CIFF 2014: The Salt of the Earth

salt poster

The words Wim Wenders and documentary in the same sentence are enough to get many a film fan all worked up. Such is the case with me, hence The Salt of the Earth (2014), the German director’s profile of iconic photographer Sebastiao Salgado, was toward the top of my ‘must see’ list when the CIFF program was announced.

Excitement went from pretty high to bursting out of the cinema when the film kicked off with a Werner Herzog-esque voiceover from Wenders. The early focus of the film is rather philosophical. Or moreover, a discussion of the philosophical and sociological reflection that a single photo can lead to and how the artform functions as a form of “painting with light”. Whilst the film goes a number of different places, the very best parts focus on this idea. Wenders comes up with a creative way of delivering these reflections from Salgado. First showing the photo, then superimposing the photographer’s weathered face over the top as he talks about the image, where and when it was taken, as well as what it taught him about humanity.

Salgado at work in West Papua

Salgado at work in West Papua

Salgado’s son Juliano Ribeiro co-directed the film and unfortunately the elements of it that he is predominately responsible for, are a level below those that Wenders delivers. Which is not to say the personal journey of a son attempting to understand who the hell his dad, a man who was absent for huge amounts of his childhood, really was is unworthy of screen time. The issue is that these sections feel like they belong in a different film, not in this examination of the power of photography and one person’s body of work.

Some of the work that Salgado did in his career did not simply lead to a philosophical pondering, it led to a philosophical reckoning – both for the photographer himself and also the world more broadly. You can see why too, because the work presented in the film is some of the most beautiful and utterly confronting that I have ever seen. Salgado’s work in Africa, focused in on extensively in the film, are iconic images which truly shock. It is striking how these stills, when we are supposedly so used to confronting images that their impact is dulled, still cut through all that and communicate not just their obvious sadness, but also that they are solid proof of just how wrong the path the world has gone on is. All of these pictures also speak to the focus on people that characterise pretty much all of Salgado’s work, which is what got Wenders interested in the artist long before he intended on making a film of his life.

salt salgado wenders

Wenders and Salgado in conversation

Wenders is one of those directors who can put something of his ‘auteur’ stamp on documentary material.  It is not just the way in which he superimposes Salgado’s face with his images. He also flits the film back and forth between black & white, and colour – the former for when the film is reminiscing, the latter for sequences set in the present. The film is also a personal interrogation of the material on display by Wenders, his curiosity leading the film down interesting path after interesting path.

Verdict: When focusing on Salgado and the power of his work, this is an all-star film, as good and creative as documentaries get. The more personal aspects delivered are less universally fascinating. But they barely detract from this portrait of a portrait-taker, truth-shower and philosopher in the guise of photographer. Pint of Kilkenny

Related articles for you to check out: CIFF 2014: Jauja and CIFF 2014: The Captive.

Like what you read? Then please like on facebook here and follow me on twitter @beer_movie

CIFF 2014: The Captive

captive poster

Ryan Reynolds is not a guy seen all that often on the festival circuit, however director Atom Egoyan’s Canadian thriller The Captive sees the former heartthrob on the CIFF program.

captive coupleThe film is rather a left of field choice for such a program really. It is the kind of thriller film that you see a few of each year, but generally in the multiplex rather than on an international film festival program. Which is not intended as a criticism because it is important to mix up as big a program as this, you can have too many European dramas you know. Nothing sets the scene of a thriller quite like snow, and there is plenty of that to go around in the film’s frigid Canadian surrounds. Reynolds plays a man whose daughter Cassandra went missing seven years ago, after he left her in his ute while he raced into a store. The event understandably leaves him wracked with guilt which is exacerbated by his wife’s inability to forgive his horrific mistake. This is not a thriller centred on a ‘whodunnit’ question ramping up the tension. Egoyan reveals the villain from the very start, shifting from a question of who took the girl, to will they get caught? Working the other side of things are two cops from a paedophilia busting unit, played by Rosario Dawson and Scott Speedman. There is perhaps a sub-plot or set of characters too many in the film, as it is a little overextended. It is best when more narratively taut and the second half feels especially flabby. To be frank, much of The Captive is pretty stock standard thriller territory, though it is handled well and the topical nature of the disappearance (the young girl is eventually used to trick even younger girls into child pornography rings) feels relevant enough. The film is also attempting to tap into recent publicity of cases such as Josef Fritzl and similar cases in the States, though the result is to amp up the tension and stakes of the film, rather than to make any great statement on the nature of such crimes.

captive ute

The start of the film is quite measured as all the thriller elements are dropped around as it builds to the big moments.  The first of which, the stealing of Cassandra, is one of the best delivered, utterly chilling even though we don’t actually see the act take place. Nothing in the film matches this early snatching for a thriller highlight and the ending, which should be the tensest part, is let down by the film not building as it should to the climactic moment. The film starts fractured, flitting back and forth between the current day and the time when the young girl was stolen. Initially this is quite frustrating and seemingly unnecessary. But gradually the narrative gets into a steady back and forth rhythm, making it a lot easier to follow what is happening. Reflecting on The Captive, it is surprising that parts of the story do not play sillier than they do in practice. This is down to a number of assured elements, especially the slick cast. Scott Speedman was very impressive as the ‘cowboy detective’, showcasing the intensity that you would expect from a cop who sees the most heinous abuse on a daily basis. The scene of him being exposed to the type of material he will have to deal with in his new gig, is a really great piece of acing, delivered only using his face. Even Kevin Durand, as a preening moustache twisting villain with make up making him look far older than usual, does not come off as too unbelievable. He definitely threatens to overdo it at some points, but if he distracts you out of the world of the film, it is only briefly. The only technical aspect of the film that really lets it down is the soundtrack. Overly intrusive and generic, it is omnipresent and borderline ruins some of the film’s best moments. A soundtrack should compliment not distract, but unfortunately this one does the latter.

Verdict: The Captive is relatively mainstream thriller territory, making it a slightly strange but refreshing inclusion on a festival program. Coolly creepy and well acted, the film manages to overcome the dire and intrusive soundtrack to hit the mark. At times, the film is so chilling it cuts right to the bone. Stubby of Reschs

Related articles for you to check out: CIFF 2014: Jauja and CIFF 2014:We Come as Friends.

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CIFF 2014: Jauja

jauja poster

Viggo Mortensen is clearly a talented and intelligent dude. Just to reinforce the fact, he stars in Jauja (2014) his first Danish speaking role. The experimental film has hints of the western about it, as Mortensen plays a man against the elements, far from his home country.

jauja coupleeThe first aspect of Jauja that strikes you is literally its aspect – the film is projected in 4:3, with rounded edges reminiscent of the TV your grandparents used to own.  Over the early period of the film, the next aspect you notice is another visual conceit. The camera does not move. Well at least for the first half of the film, even to the point of action occurring off-screen. This is actually utilised in a playful manner by director Lisandro Alonso.  It emphasises the movement of the characters through the space of the frame and also focuses the eye on the interaction between character and landscape. The early parts of the film features incredibly expansive scenery, massive cliffs, the ocean, pastureland and rugged desert-like scapes so it is a delight to see how the characters move on these canvasses. The action is generally just two people talking, so much so that it feels like something you would see on the stage. Which makes for quite the contrast with these scenes taking place in such wide and expansive locales. During the second half of the film, the camera begins to move which is quite jarring after growing fond of the use of the static camera. Furthermore, it seems so unnecessary to move the camera  a little, as happens regularly through the second half and it is hard to see what is gained by moving away from the stylistic conceit that had really set the film apart.

This review is all backwards to my normal structure, starting with the technical rather than a quick story breakdown. That speaks to the focus of the film, which is really not on narrative. Men wander the space of an expansive land that is clearly not their own. One the men’s daughter goes missing. He goes and looks for her. That is about it really. The minimalist plot and focus on the twisting, at times befuddling, slow journey along the road is reminiscent of arthouse filmmakers past. The Taviani Brothers were the ones that kept being suggested in my mind. The shooting grade, appearance of colour and similar men in uniform of Allonsanfan (1974) is definitely a kindred spirit to this film, even if there is a bit of a lighter touch in the older film. The glacial pace both helps and hurts the film. Through the early section, when the camera remains stationary and the imagery expansive, it allows more time to drink in all the detail. When the ‘chase’ sequence occurs though, it all feels too slow and too pointless. A more modern, obvious parallel that I was keen to avoid making, is with Terrence Malick. But that parallel is definitely a valid one. The two directors share a reflective sensibility that not many filmmakers have. A point of difference though is that Alonso occasionally employs a harsh kineticism that Malick would shy away from – Mortensen fiercely sheathing his sword just one example.

jauja looking glass

Verdict: At its best, Jauja reminds you how mesmerising and enjoyable slow-paced arthouse cinema can be. Unfortunately the film’s best only makes up around half of the film, leaving the rest to meander and confound in a less visually experimental but more tiresome space. Stubby of Reschs

Related articles for you to check out: CIFF 2014: The Congress and CIFF 2014: We Come as Friends.

Like what you read? Then please like on facebook here and follow me on twitter @beer_movie

CIFF 2014: We Come as Friends

friends poster

As a youngster, I was obsessed with countries for some reason. Probably because I was (and remain) a massive nerdburger. I could be found reading entries in the encyclopaedias on random countries and memorising flags. People in my hometown still talk about my iconic year 2 project on Lesotho and the high octane year 3 sequel on Sao Tome and Principe (note: no one actually still talks about these projects). I have managed to suppress the nerdiest outlets of this past obsession, but the creation of a new country is something that still intrigues me.

Sadly our newest states, such as East Timor and South Sudan, are generally the result of decades of agitation countered by violent repression. We Come as Friends (2014) looks at the world’s newest country South Sudan and how it came to be. The film opens as director Hubert Sauper gets permission to enter the country in his midget plane that looks like something Werner Herzog would refuse to fly in.  Early, the film succinctly establishes the main differences between South Sudan and the North.  South Sudan is a Christian nation, generally aligned with America. Sudan is a Muslim nation, aligned with China. Much of the early running in the film is a really interesting look at the lingering effect that colonialism, predominately European, continues to exert on the continent. Also how the essentially arbitrary demarcation of the African continent into nations resulted in the disconnection of people from resources, the splitting of tribes and led to families warring with one another.

friends plane

This Western imposition drove a meaningless wedge between people that was never there before.  The need to fight for these meaningless borders or meaningless presidents was only exacerbated by the extreme militarisation that the Europeans also brought with them.  It is here when the film is at its best. It does not feel like the film is only interested in this one single ‘thesis’. But it plays with a lot of direction. For some reason though, Sauper expands the film out in a really unstructured way. So it feels like you get lots of little snippets of info, but no broader view. A good example of this is the extended sequences late in the film examining the idiotic American missionaries that reside in Sudan. Sure, the parallel with colonialism is plain to see. But the point of this seems to be to generate some laughs at just how daft these missionaries are (not for their beliefs, but for their horrid cultural insensitivity). That is mildly enjoyable, but does not deserve to take up a 20 minute chunk of the film, which could have been used to further examine the true new colonialism in Sudan – American and Chinese oil interests – or to explain in detail why at the end of the film, South Sudan finds itself marching off to war once again. The end effect is that when the film at times feels it is attempting to make a wider point, such as about corruption, these ideas are never formulated fully.

Verdict: If you have a particular interest in the politics of Africa or Sudan in particular, then We Come as Friends is worth your time. I suspect it would not teach you anything you didn’t already know, but it might put some more personal stories on top of that knowledge. For everyone else though, the film is not comprehensive enough or enjoyable enough for me to really recommend you making the effort to see. Frustratingly scattershot, We Come as Friends could have definitely used some more directorial intervention to guide and shape the raw material.  Schooner of Carlton Draught

Related articles for you to check out: CIFF 2014: The Congress and CIFF 2014: Particle Fever.

Like what you read? Then please like on facebook here and follow me on twitter @beer_movie

CIFF 2014: The Congress

congress poster

Ari Folman wowed a lot of people with his first film Waltz with Bashir (2008). A mix of powerful personal narrative doco, war expose and animation was like not much seen before. As is always the case when a first time filmmaker makes something so incredibly personal, there is always a question of where exactly they will turn to next. The Congress (2013) is definitely not what we were expecting.

Folman has gone from documentary to a half animated, half live action sci-fi film about film hybrid. That is not a snappy description, because this is a film that defies easy pigeonholing at every turn. The film starts in a present day only slightly different to ours. Robin Wright is in negotiations for her ‘final role’ with the studio. A final role because the scanning of actors, recreating actual performances on a computer that we always hear rumoured about, exists in this present day. This first half of the film is one for the film about film nerds. It uses commentary about the current state of film, performance and the future of the film industry to shine a light on our current society and the flaws in its direction. The assumption made by the studios in the film is that people want to be young forever and that they want perfection in performances. When really the imperfections make the performance worth watching, just as imperfections and the variety they bring make life worth living. In that sense, though there are no space-ships or strange beings, The Congress is classic sci-fi in terms of the thematic approach.

The film then flips as it races forward 20 years and we get what is a more overt sci-fi experience in the animated second half.  There is trippiness and obliqueness all of a sudden in the visual and narrative approach. It did threaten to lose me early in this period, but then it brings it all back around to the central themes of the film, escalating them to remind us that these things do repeat themselves. And also that cynical men attempting to make big dollars will generally have no bounds.  Plus the cars have ace Back to the Future II (1989) style barcode numberplates. As exaggerated, psychedelic or theme heavy the film gets at times, it never comes at the expense of emotional depth. Some of the core, human relationships and major poignant moments of the film are really quite crushing and affecting.

congress pic

Before the film, I was interested to see what kind of performances Folman would be able to elicit from his clearly talented cast. As a director, he has minimal experience in those areas, but whatever he did worked well. Harvey Keitel and especially Robin Wright deliver their best work for a long time. Keitel clearly relishes having a wordy, motormouth role he can sink his teeth into. Robin Wright though is a bit of a revelation. She has some incredible performances on her filmography, but this may be better than all of them. Playing herself, the mixture of fiction and fact in terms of scripting allow the film to make commentary on the place of women, especially ageing ones, in contemporary Hollywood. The performances are what makes all this possible though and I think the scene of Wright, Keitel and the scanning orb is probably the best scene of pure acting I have seen this year. In both halves, the film looks very pretty. The first is nicely shot and glossy, but never distractingly so. In the second, the animation is bright and reminiscent of classic Disney work, except for the enhanced performance capture that is reminiscent, though not the same, of Folman’s first film. The script, inspired by a novel, allows dense themes to be explored without ever feeling laboured. The dialogue is on point too, you could certainly imagine a studio exec making these same arguments for performer scanning today, that the head of the studio does in this film.

Verdict: The Congress pulls off the feat of being two entirely different films in one, yet still managing to function as a singular piece of art with a clear thematic thread. Folman surprised us by making this film, so I can’t wait to see what he shocks us with next. Though if it was another sci-fi film about film (best genre ever?), I would not be complaining.  Longneck of Melbourne Bitter

Related articles for you to check out: Canberra International Film Festival 2014 preview and CIFF 2014: Particle Fever.

Like what you read? Then please like on facebook here and follow me on twitter @beer_movie

CIFF 2014: Particle Fever

fever poster
Whatever happened to the Large Hadron Collider? Huge news back in the day, it seemed to fall out of the public consciousness a little once it didn’t cause the end of the world. Thankfully though, the documentary Particle Fever (2013) exists to bring those of us not boffiny enough to have kept up to date with all the goings on, up to speed on all the particle mashing fun.

It is truly incredible how enormous the Large Hadron Collider is. Also a little ironic that the machine for studying the most mind-bendingly small particles known, or guessed, by humanity is the largest piece of machinery that we have ever built. As interesting as the size and scale of the undertaking is, Particle Fever is not about that, so the film quickly jumps along to the meaty science chatter. This is usually the bit where I switch off, not being at all a science head, through study or in terms of having much casual interest. But as with so many documentaries, the quality of talking heads is of utmost importance. In, amongst others, Monica Dunford, David Kaplan and Nima Arkani-Hamed, this film has warm personalities who are able to convey their undoubted scientific genius to chumps like me. Not a dumbed down, animated with pretty pictures ‘lite’ version of their theories and hopes for the outcomes of the Collider, but some of the actual awe-inspiring complexity of it all. It is also nice that for all their intelligence and estimations, no one really knows how the initial experiments will work, which makes their unfolding onscreen all the more tense. The film is best when keeping the presentation slick but simple. It falls into the trap of getting a little silly when attempting to counter the issue of representing sub-atomic collisions visually. It is something so hard to visualise that the best approach would have been to have us see the effect on the people in the room and have them explain it. Rather than trying to emphasise the momentous nature of the moment with images of Monet paintings and soaring classical music.

fever collider

Generally documentaries try and tell you a huge story. Many docos on this subject would start with the history of physics and the long germination of the ideas currently being tested. But this film, whilst it weaves enough of that information in, focuses in on the now. As such, it is able to convey just what a huge idea all of this is and why you should care, at least for the 100 or so minutes that the film runs for. Plus even if it is not in your particular field of interest, there is still something in this momentous achievement that should be celebrated. When was the last time you saw the expertise of 100s of countries and billions upon billions of dollars, being geared toward an outcome with no immediate commercial or military outcome? The film gives a deep insight into a world that you may not be aware of. Here, the different fields of theoretical and experimental physics are explained and explored. The abstract vs the real. Being a hippy, my heart lies with the slightly artistic bent of theoretical physics, with its “beautiful ideas.”  For a film about physics and the so-called ‘God particle’ it is refreshing that there is not an obsession with religion and the ramifications, if any, this research has with a Western conception of God. Some of the physicists share personal reflections on the research and its relation to that space, but it is never a focal point.

Verdict: It is hard for films about really complex scientific ideas to be both comprehensible to layman Arts graduates like myself, without dumbing down the soul of them. Particle Fever walks the line well and the crew of charismatic (!) and engaging physicists involved means it’s an enjoyable line as well. Pint of Kilkenny

Related articles for you to check out: SUFF 2014: American Arab and MIFF 2014: Come Worry with Us.

Like what you read? Then please like on facebook here and follow me on twitter @beer_movie

Canberra International Film Festival 2014 preview

CIFF logo

The Canberra International Film Festival kicks off tomorrow. As Canberra is my (adopted) hometown, I will be covering the festival quite extensively this year, aiming to see somewhere in the region of 25 films. Am a little intimidated just writing that. Rather an epic undertaking. In any case, I thought I would bash out a quick preview of what I am looking forward to in this year’s festival. Read on below to see my top picks, broken up into a few vague thematic categories. Excuse the dot point format. A little late here and I need my beauty sleep if I am going to embark on this epic film adventure as of tomorrow.

Big name auteurs

CIFF has attracted films from some of the biggest name, festival style auteurs making films these days. There is the occasional Aussie premiere in there, but mainly these are films that have proven buzzworthy over the last year of festivals, especially at MIFF and SIFF from an Australian perspective.

  • The festival kicks off tomorrow evening with the Australian premiere of David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars starring Julianne Moore. I’ve heard some positive things about Cronenberg’s latest and you have to give it to him, he always provokes a level of thought. Looks to do the same with this film, which appears to be a searing look at Hollywood.

CIFF maps

  • The Dardenne Bros are absolutely beloved and Two Days, One Night may be their most beloved film yet. The film features the always excellent Marion Cotillard as a factory worker begging her colleagues to allow her to return to work.
  • If there is one festivaly name people on my twitter talk about more than any other, it is Xavier Dolan. I have never seen any of the Canadian upstart’s films so am really looking forward to Tom at the Farm. One of my most anticipated of the whole festival I think.
  • The epic (in length at least) Winter Sleep took out the Palm d’Or at Cannes this year which is a certain way to gain festival intrigue. With my jammed program, I am not sure I can make room for its 196 minute run time. Which is a bummer because I have heard wildly divergent opinions on this one and was hoping to make my own mind up.
  • Catherine Breillat has long been one of cinema’s most talked about directors. Abuse of Weakness is a somewhat based on her real life tale of a conman and a film director.

Freaky Fridays

Unfortunately not at my beloved Arc Cinema as it was last year, this selection of genre films is one of the definite strong points of this year’s program. I just wish it was a little bigger is all.

  • Stellan Skarsgard in a snowbound killing spree. In Order of Disappearance sounds pretty ace.
  • The Australian premiere of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a bit of a coup for CIFF as this Iranian feminist vampire film has understandably got people talking a fair bit. I am really keen to check this out. It may well be my most anticipated film of the fest.
  • I avoided The Green Inferno at SUFF. My concerns about the cannibalistic Amazonian trope remain, but I think I will take the plunge on this one. Reviews have not been the best so far.
  • Goal of the Dead – Zombies and football… say no more.

CIFF goal poster

  • Why Don’t You Play in Hell and Housebound are two of my favourite films of the year so far. Links to my reviews can be found toward the end of this preview.

American indies

My one real qualm with this year’s CIFF program is that it is not strong on Australian films for whatever reason. Personally though, I will fill that void with some of these smaller scale American productions that I have either heard a bunch about, or just been intrigued by whilst reading this year’s program.

  • Appropriate Behaviour looks like it is all New York hipness seen through the prism of a bisexual Persian. Comedies are a little thin on the ground at CIFF, so here is hoping the scripting in this one is strong because it has a lot of promise.
  • Ok so technically The Salvation is not an American film at all. I just wanted to talk about it because I am really excited to see it. Mads Mikkelsen stars in this Australian premiere as a Danish man trying to start a life in the American Wild West. A Mads Mikkelsen Western? Yes please.
  • A lot of the films that I am really keen to see at CIFF are ones that have gotten mixed reviews from their earlier festival screenings. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her definitely fit into that. Plenty of admirers and many who were a little miffed at the whole approach. In any case, apparently the ‘Them’ version slated for wider release is not at all successful, so I will be keenly checking these two out.

CIFF Rigby

  • Listen Up Philip was a film that I could have caught at MIFF, but I sensed I would find it a little too pretentious. But various people, who’s opinions I really trust have been telling me I missed out. Luckily CIFF will give me the chance to rectify that.


I have a weird relationship with docos at festivals. For some reason, I am never all that excited to check them out when planning out my schedule. But so often after the fact, they are some of my highlights.

  • I adore Wim Wenders and his dance documentary Pina (2011) was one of my favourite films of 2011. So I can’t wait to see this picturesque looking portrait of renowned Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado that Wenders co-directed with Salgado’s son.
  • “Illmatic” by Nas is one of the absolute essential hip-hop albums of all time. Time is Illmatic takes a look at both the album’s creation and how it is now considered. Brutally, it clashes with the Wenders’ film above for its first screening. But hopefully I will be able to catch the second.
  • Remember the Hadron Collider? I do. Never really understood it though. Hopefully Particle Fever educates me a little without being too complex about it all.
  • How in the world is it that people with absolutely no scientific background continue to play a major role in guiding worldwide climate ‘debate’? I have no idea, but hopefully Merchants of Doubt will teach me a little of why.
  • Songs For Alexis traces teenage Ryan’s dealing with normal teen issues magnified by his transition from female to male. The kind of story not told enough, but one that we will hopefully see more and more of.

CIFF alexis

Stuff I’ve already seen and know is ace:

From my visits to MIFF and SUFF, I’ve managed to see four films on the CIFF program. I won’t ramble too much, but click the title to go through to a full review.

  • Human Capital is a Italian noir film that has gotten a whole lot of love. I liked it, but not as much as most.
  • When Animals Dream is a slow, but worthwhile feminists vampire film out of Denmark.
  • Why Don’t You Play in Hell was my favourite film at SUFF and is like nothing you’ve ever seen before.


  • Housebound from New Zealand is one of the best comedy-horror films I have seen in a long time.

Related articles for you to check out: Sydney Underground Film Festival coverage and Melbourne International Film Festival coverage.

Like what you read? Then please like on facebook here and follow me on twitter @beer_movie

Comics review: 24: Underground issues 1-5

24 good cover

For me, 24 was one of those awesome TV shows I got into a fair while after it finished airing. So the wife and I binge watched all of the eight seasons in a pretty short stretch of time. As far as action focused TV, I found it all pretty riveting and on occasions innovative stuff.

I was pretty excited to hear that 24 would be returning with 24: Live Another Day (2014), a 12 episode season. IDW comics released 24: Underground in preparation for the new season, designed to fill in some of the gaps in the Jack Bauer story between the end of season eight and the beginning of this new limited show. Does the five issue run succeed? Well sort of. It is definitely not a comprehensive filling in of the gaps and only covers a couple of day stretch in what must have been a few year gap in the universe of the TV show. But what the comics do well is capture some of the spirit that made the show such a good watch and get the feel of 24 storytelling right. It sees Jack Bauer now living happily with his girlfriend in the Ukraine, under the comical assumed name of Borys. Then, just as so often happened in the series, trouble just seems to find Bauer as he falls afoul of some good ol’ fashioned mobsters. The tension builds nicely through the rest of the run as Jack focuses on his efforts to keep the baddies from revealing who he truly is and protecting his new loved ones. Overall it is a smaller, more domestic version of a 24 story that retains the structure and spirit of the TV series. As well, the Bauer on display here is a violent, resourceful man-apart figure, so they get the sense of character right too.

Not fond of a lot of the art in the series, but love the way the action is written... BLAM and all that

Not fond of a lot of the art in the series, but love the way the action is written… BLAM BLAM BLAM and all that

I think the way this five issue run functions as a bridge between the final season of 24 proper and this new 12 episode one is a very cool example of transmedia storytelling. A term that was in-vogue around the time of The Matrix (1999) – with The Animatrix (2003) and video games as part of the ‘canon’ – but which really never took off. Increasingly though, comics are being used in this way or even to continue properties that have ceased existing in their original forms. Buffy and Smallville are just examples of two TV properties that now have new ‘seasons’ coming out in comic book form. Personally, I love this as a way to have some of our favourite properties live on a little longer.

One of the ultra ugly 'sub' photo covers

One of the ultra ugly ‘sub’ photo covers

The main issue I have with 24: Underground is that it is a pretty ugly book. All of the issues have a strange, large black border around all the panels, shrinking the size of the page for some reason. The colours are washed out whilst the art, especially the character designs, suffer from attempting to match the likeness of Sutherland too closely. In some of the panels, it is even hard to see exactly what exactly is taking place. I did find that I got used to the artwork a little more, and grew to especially appreciate the shading as the series progressed. I also liked how the action was drawn, plenty of ‘blams’ and ‘screeches’ and the like which definitely heightened the panels in which they appeared. The cover art is a mixed bag though. I had a standing order for this series so just picked up all the books in one hit at the end and did not get to choose my covers. The ‘sub’ covers are utterly woeful, featuring photos of Kiefer Sutherland as Bauer, which if you ask me are cringeworthy. Better though are the drawn covers such as the at the very top of this review for issue 4, which captures the surveillance/CTU vibe of the show and some aspects of the comics beautofully.

Verdict: Whether or not to recommend 24: Underground is a pretty simple decision for me. If you were a fan of the TV show like I was, you will definitely get something out of these books. As a fan, it is so nice to be back in that universe with the character of Jack Bauer, albeit on a smaller scale than was the norm. But if you never got into the show, there is nothing special enough about the art or narrative on display here for me to recommend this to you. Stubby of Reschs

Related articles for you to check out: Comic book review: The Adventures of Superman #14 by Max Landis and Comic Review: Captain America The Winter Soldier film tie-in.

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Trailer for your Weekend: Tomorrowland

tland poster

There are plenty of highly hyped movies coming our way in 2015, most of them continuations of franchises. One more original film that has plenty of people psyched is director Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland (2015) which he has been working on for what seems like ages. This first teaser trailer gives us an interesting concept, seemingly the presence of another utopian dimension in which you can escape the looming apocalypse. But it also has a pretty stock standard Clooney voiceover dominating it, which does give me some cause for concern. Bird is a talented dude, so I will be keen to check this out. I just hope Disney has given him enough freedom to deliver something original.

Related articles for you to check out: Trailer for your Weekend: Snowpiercer and Predestination.

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The Great Escape

escape poster

Growing up, I am pretty sure The Great Escape (1963) was one of the films my Nan was forever watching. That and Escape to Victory (1981), or I have just confused the two and she actually only re-watched one of them over and over. In any case, if it was The Great Escape she loved, I must applaud her exemplary taste, because it is one hell of a film.

escape tunnelThe film is set in a German POW camp from where, I am sure you will be shocked to discover given the title, a group of Allied soldiers are attempting to escape. An interesting counterpoint to the portrayal of camps in most WWII films is that in this one, the inmates can actually live a relatively comfortable life. So the fact they are so desperate to escape, taps into their duty as soldiers. It is considered cowardice to sit out the war comfortably when you should be doing everything in your power to escape. Structurally, the film is a little more innovative than what you would expect from a classic, mainstream war film. Rather than just building a core narrative, we are gradually introduced to the small escape efforts made by the crack band of escape artists. The focus on this merry band of inmates, with their distinct fields of expertise, means the film functions as an inverted heist film, as the crew do their absolute best to get out rather than in. One criticism levelled at many contemporary mainstream films is the lack of stakes or tension. There are no such issues here, as the tension at the end absolutely killed me. Not to mention the fact that the film eschews the ending you were expecting, but gives you one that is a lot more true to the rest of the film and the war it is depicting a small part of.

The theme song for The Great Escape is one of the best recognised in cinema history. It is firmly lodged in my head as I write this, even though I watched the film a while ago now. The song is a perfect storm of catchiness, simplicity and more than anything else fits in perfectly with the action on screen. It is employed as a refrain, popping up intermittently throughout the film and it works well in that role. Along with the theme song, the aspect of The Great Escape which has probably lasted the longest in the public consciousness is the incredibly talented ensemble cast, led by Steve McQueen. McQueen is one of those dudes who is just instant charisma, he exudes it just walking around. Alongside McQueen is a whole host of the era’s finest actors. The late, great Richard Attenborough as the inmates’ leader, Charles Bronson whose magnetism is equally as strong yet totally different to McQueen’s and a whole bunch of other iconic stars. The characters function for the most part as ciphers or caricatures. But that is fine because the characterisation of the script is so good that even though they are slight, they still deeply involve the audience in the goings on of the film. They are almost caricatures with nuance if that is a thing.

THE GREAT ESCAPE, Steve McQueen, 1963.

Verdict:  It is not easy to respectfully turn WWII events into non-warmongering popular entertainment. The Great Escape does it better than probably anything else, driven by the funny script populated by a crew of characters which is bought to life by one of the best male ensembles that has ever appeared together.  Longneck of Melbourne Bitter

2014 Progress: 21/101

Progress: 117/1001

Related articles for you to check out: High Plains Drifter and Ben-Hur.

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