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20/20 Filmsight - Film Criticism by David O'Connell

Film Criticism by David O'Connell

I'm a Sydney-based film reviewer that loves to review local screenings and film festivals. Want me to cover your event? Email me at cibbuano ~AT~ orble ~DOT~ com.

Jurassic World

June 25th 2015 06:04

There’s not a whit of originality in this fourth instalment of the Jurassic Park series; Colin Trevorrow’s film relies on an absurdly familiar formula and every action movie cliché to set up the disaster-heading-our-way-than ks-to-human-stupidity scenario. Why, then, is this film so damn enjoyable, like an oversized box of oversalted popcorn that you grinningly toss down your throat before immediately wanting to regurgitate the whole lot of it?

It’s fascinating to compare last year’s Godzilla (2014).................

The rest of this wholly compelling Jurassic World review can be found at the new location for this former site right HERE.


Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

April 30th 2015 04:33

David Zellner’s new film, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (2014), conceived and written with his brother Nathan, is an exquisitely deadpan drama-black comedy. Beginning in Japan, it eventually treks to an American town that the film literate amongst audience members will be all too familiar with. This is the strange odyssey of a young woman, Kumiko (Rinko Kukuchi). Isolated, outcast, and peculiar, she works a menial, pointless office job, beyond which she’s inclined to become immersed in strange quests. Viewing herself as like a Spanish conquistador she stumbles upon a barely functioning copy of the Coen brothers’ masterpiece Fargo on a mangled VHS tape. Little footage from the film is discernible, though she’s drawn to a key scene in which Steve Buscemi’s criminal buries a suitcase full of cash in the snow beside an anonymous, changeless stretch of highway.

Replaying this footage over and over again, Kumiko constructs a meticulous but spurious map and becomes determined to travel to Fargo and uncover the treasure for herself. Appropriating her boss’s credit card she heads to the States and sets out on her journey. Naturally she will encounter some oddball characters along the way, including a helpful police officer played by the director himself. Most of the people she meets, surprisingly, are sympathetic to her cause and attempt to shed light on a reality that Kumiko struggles to come to terms with.

With its oddball sensibilities, Kumiko the Treasure Hunter remains true to the strange worldview of Kumiko. It’s this vision that informs the film’s aesthetic and our perspective, consequently, is forever filtered through her eyes. The marvellous Kukuchi gives an astonishing performance; so much hangs on her and even with limited dialogue she fills Kumiko’s life with strange, intimate details that reflect an intriguingly internalised reaction to the world. Though the film tends to ebb and flow through the course of a very deliberately paced narrative, the often wordless reactions of Kumiko provide subtle, rich details of a life that remains resolutely self-contained.

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter will not be to all tastes but it’s full of idiosyncratic details, including an often brazen, ominous use of music by The Octopus Project which occasionally rises to cacophonous heights as if the plot is nearing a horror movie detour. Though it doesn’t deliver the payoff it seems to be hinting at, the film never loses its way until the very end when, presumably struggling for a strong metaphorical summation of Kumiko’s quest, it weakly fades out. Minor quibbles aside, this is a compelling, distinctive piece of cinema with a startling central performance and is highly recommended viewing.



March 26th 2015 04:53
The latest from modern Russian master Andrey Zvyagintsev is the story of a not quite ordinary family shifting in the sands of time under the weight of corruption. In a remote northern town, struggling mechanic Kolya (Aleksey Serabryakov) is about to have his home and hearth pulled out from under him by a bitter, corrupt mayor, Vadim (Roman Madyanov). Though Kolya thinks he has an ace in his deck with the evidence garnered by his old friend and now Moscow lawyer Dimitriy (Vladimir Vdovichenkov), nothing is quite what it appears. As the seams holding his marriage to his younger wife Lilya (Elena Lyadova) begin to unravel, he finds himself unable to comprehend the approaching storm. Beholding the world and all it consequences through a vodka-smeared gaze only exacerbates his downward spiral.

Zvyagintsev‘s ferociously bleak film has a soured, grey-tinted, autumnal beauty about it and for two-thirds of its length the film goes close to matching his two great works, The Return (2003) and Elena (2011) in their depth of commentary about Russian societal ills, especially the vast divide between the haves and have-nots. What Leviathan does lack however is a finely honed commentary and, in particular, the great economy of those masterpieces.

Though the acting is flawless, the film’s third act loses its shape and too often Zvyagintsev resolves potentially complex strands with simplified narrative turns. The traumatised reaction of son Roma (Sergey Pokhodaev) to a ferocious, impetuous coupling of his parents - a very, one-sided, heinous transgression - is one disappointing example of this loosening of the noose. Then there’s the expository dialogue that seeks, far too self-consciously, to flush metaphors out into the light with compromised conversation that dilutes the naturalism that Zvyagintsev works tirelessly to achieve. Kolya’s drunken run-in with a priest is a prime example of the third act’s minor shortcomings.

Leviathan (2014) is flawed but it has a withering impact in its best moments. It also strikes a powerful, gut-churning final note as the death knell tolls for some of the participants. A moral, ethical death is some instances, the director seems to be saying, just as flagrantly emphasises the decay of ambition and helplessness in the face of power that corrupts absolutely. And again there’s the wretched disparity to marvel at of Russian ideals of freedom with their counterparts in the real world. It’s grim and disturbing ultimately, these conclusions of Zvagintsev’s, but for the most part, it makes for compelling drama with a touch of bleak humour tossed into the mix making for brief but welcome relief.



March 18th 2015 03:35

Love is Strange

March 17th 2015 03:48

Seventh Son

March 11th 2015 04:22

Still Alice

March 9th 2015 02:22


February 19th 2015 02:00

The Gambler

February 5th 2015 01:37

American Sniper

February 3rd 2015 06:53

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