Category Archives: 2015

Colin Hay – Waiting For My Real Life (2015, Nate Gowtham and Aaron Faulls)

Even though the film’s called Colin Hay – Waiting For My Real Life, it’s not entirely clear what relationship the documentary is going to have with its subject. There are various people interviewed, ranging from Australian movie stars to record execs to sitcom stars to Mick Fleetwood. Directors Faulls and Gowtham do a fantastic job setting up the film. But no one’s exactly talking about Colin Hay today, they’re talking about him historically. Some of the interviews with the movie stars is just about setting the stage for a time period, for example. And it’s all beautifully edited by David Mercado.

But Colin Hay isn’t really a part of it. His interview clips are from different time periods, there are some where it actually appears he’s talking into the camera from stage, which seems odd. He’s not hostile, but he’s detached. The film hasn’t figured out how it wants to approach him.

Now, I’m going into the film with minimal experience. I was too young for Men At Work when they came out. I was aware of them because their big hits are big hits. I didn’t track down their albums until the mid-aughts. I didn’t even connect Colin Hay and “Scrubs,” which was a thing, and I did watch his episode of “Scrubs.” It was just “what happened to one of the guys from Men At Work.”

As it turns out, kind of a lot, kind of not a lot. But I do wonder how you’d approach the film from a different entry point. Faulls and Gowtham seem to be assuming about my level of knowledge though. It’s not a documentary for music industry enthusiasts. It’s for everyone, presumably whether they’re familiar with Colin Hay or not.

Anyway, right after setting up the documentary’s tone, Faulls and Gowtham shake it up with a history of Men At Work, the band. Real Life runs under ninety minutes and the intro and Men At Work history probably takes up the first third of it. It’s beautifully paced, with good interviews from the band members, but once it’s over, it’s entirely unclear where things are going. The introduction only foreshadowed the Men At Work story.

Only then Colin Hay’s life story starts getting more and more interesting. The closer the film gets to him, as he’s doing more and more of the interviews, as he becomes a much more singular player in the film’s narrative of his life, the more the viewer’s perspective changes. It’s almost like it’s on a swing, but the filmmakers are very carefully controlling it. The more interesting Hay becomes, the less sympathetic.

But then things happen and all of a sudden, Hay–as a subject–is more important for his humanity than anything else. Only Faulls and Gowtham don’t really change the perspective for these sequences. They’re still positioning the viewer’s closeness, even though the content is on a different frequency. And where the film then comes through is how quickly everything becomes simpatico just shows well Faulls and Gowtham do their job.

It’s no mistake, Colin Hay is a fine documentary.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Nate Gowtham and Aaron Faulls; director of photography, Faulls; edited by David Mercado; produced by Gowtham, Faults, and Elizabeth James; released by TriCoast Worldwide.


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Night People (2015, Gerard Lough)

Endings should never be too literal; especially not in a film where a character talks about having ambiguous endings to stories. Night People ends too literally, especially after a third act where all sorts of threads dangle near one another. Writer and director Lough doesn’t tie things up exactly, but he does go out of his way to imply the viewer has no idea what’s been going on.

The structure of the film is pretty simple. Michael Parle and Jack Dean-Shepherd are a couple of arsonists who have to pass some time; what better way than to tell a couple scary stories. It’s an old, sturdy structure to a fall back on and Parle’s so good–and Lough’s direction of the present action is awesomely creepy–the film can get away with it, especially after Dean-Sheperd’s story starts.

Unfortunately, Parle’s story is first. He doesn’t narrate it, which probably would’ve helped. Instead, the film cuts to the Michael McLaughlin digging up some weird object and getting his science nerd school chum (Eoin Leahy) to figure out how to make it work. Per the dialogue, Lough seems to be going for something Lovecraftian, but he doesn’t really get there. He also doesn’t try very hard. Some of the problem is neither McLaughlin or Leahy are likable characters, nor are they reliable enough to be sympathetic. Lough’s handling of the sci-fi elements aren’t bad at all, it’s just dramatically inert. And Andrew Norry eventually shows up and provides some solid diversion (he and Parle look like twins though).

Luckily, the second story is awesome and all thanks to its protagonist, played by Claire Blennerhassett. She’s the facilitator of deviant desires and finds herself in a dicey situation as she auditions for a promotion. Lough’s script makes some leaps, but Blennerhassett’s so good it doesn’t matter. The second story also has a lot more locations than the first and Lough has a great eye for placing his actors, something he rarely gets to do in the first story.

The reveals at the end are occasionally surprising, but the film goes out way too literally. Lough sacrifices some of the subtlety he built in the first story to give the impression of tied plot threads. Whether or not they are tied is immaterial, since Night People’s more about the sense of it all.

It’s a fine feature length debut from Lough, with fine photography from Greg Rouladh and effective music from Cian Furlong. And Blennerhassett and Parle are awesome.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Gerard Lough; photographed and edited by Greg Rouladh; music by Cian Furlong; produced by Lough and Tanya McLaughlin; released by Rogue Frame Films.

Starring Michael Parle (Mike), Jack Dean-Shepherd (Luke), Claire Blennerhassett (Faustina), Sarah Louise Carney (Lilian), Aidan O Sullivan (Robert), Michael McLaughlin (Randall), Eoin Leahy (Adam), Philip Doherty (Matt) and Kieran Kelly (Blake).


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The Tiger: An Old Hunter’s Tale (2015, Park Hoon-jung)

The Tiger: An Old Hunter’s Tale is a rather ambitious piece of work from director Park. Maybe too ambitious. It’s not just about juxtaposing old aged hunter Choi Min-sik against the last tiger in Korea (the film’s set during Japanese occupation when the Japanese were having all the tigers exterminated), it’s also about juxtaposing almost as middle aged hunter Jeong Man-sik against Choi. And sort of the tiger. And then there’s this juxtaposing of Choi’s son, Sung Yoo-Bin, against the military officer in charge of this particular tiger hunt who’s a Korean in the Japanese army. That officer, played by Won Jung-suk, employs Jeong in the tiger hunt.

All of the performances are excellent, including Kim Sang-ho as Jeong’s amusing sidekick. Not particularly funny because there’s nothing funny in The Tiger. It’s about dead wives, dead brothers, dead kids, foreign occupation, starvation. Nothing happy. When Park will do something cute with the tigers, it comes off as fantasy. Similarly, and successfully in terms of the juxtaposing attempts, when the film flashbacks to Choi’s younger, happier days, it also comes off as fantasy. Some sort of idealized memory, with cinematographer Lee Mo-gae letting some saturation into the frame.

It’s a long film and very deliberately told. Only since Park’s busy working up the juxtaposition of the old hunters–Choi and the last tiger–he doesn’t do enough to tie Choi into the main plot. Because even though Choi’s ostensibly the lead, the film plays far more from Jeong’s perspective. Or even Won’s.

There’s also a lyrical quality to the film. Park wants to showcase the majesty of the mountain setting, using CGI to get the point across when need be. He’s pretty good at augmenting with the digital effects, but he and cinematographer Lee don’t have a scale for their exterior shots. They’re far more comfortable in medium shots on the ground than the extreme long shots of the mountains, which may or may not be entirely digital. It’d help if Park could have done the majesty.

Jo Yeong-wook’s score is a great metaphor for the film itself. Jo delivers a fine score with some great moments, but it’s not what the film needs. It knows what the film needs, it just doesn’t deliver it.

The Tiger’s got the performances going for it and some excellent sequences. Park doesn’t get where he’s trying to go, unfortunately. The narrative is methodical and it needs to be jumpy, in a lyrical sort of way.

Very nice digital effects on the tigers too. Not so much on the other wildlife–it’s always fine, but the the tigers are just phenomenal.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Park Hoon-jung; director of photography, Lee Mo-gae; music by Jo Yeong-wook; produced by Park Min-jung; released by Next Entertainment World.

Starring Choi Min-sik (Chun Man-duk), Sung Yoo-bin (Suk-yi), Jeong Man-sik (Goo-gyeong), Kim Sang-ho (Chil-goo), Won Jung-suk (Military Officer Ryu), Ôsugi Ren (Government Official Maezono) and Kim Hong-pa (Herbal shop owner).


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Mr. Right (2015, Paco Cabezas)

Mr. Right has shockingly poor direction. Daniel Aranyó makes the shots look good, though the CG-assisted bullet time thing is bad, and Tom Wilson’s editing is perfectly competent, but director Cabezas is really bad. He shoots the film with a Panavision aspect ratio and does not know what to do with that frame so it looks like, frankly, someone has cut the top and bottom off.

I suppose he does okay with the long shots. Or at least better with them than anything else. When Sam Rockwell, who plays the title character (he’s a hitman, it’s supposed to be an ironic moniker), dances around and beats guys up and then kills them? One can imagine how Mr. Right might work with a better director and a significant rewrite. Cabezas wastes the New Orleans location shooting; no one is supposed to be able to waste New Orleans location shooting.

The film also wastes Tim Roth, though maybe not. Maybe Roth has just gotten past the point of caring, which might explain his phoned in performance. At least Rockwell can be indifferent to the bad material and still enthusiastic. He does have to carry his love interest, Anna Kendrick, through a lot of the stupidity. Kendrick should be the film’s protagonist, but she’s not. Instead, she’s just the girl. It’s weird since the movie opens with her and she gets most of the first act.

Rockwell doesn’t even get a name until almost halfway into the picture, so it really ought to be Kendrick’s show. She’s affably annoying but she does try. Trying counts in a film like Mr. Right because actors trying is all there to a film when the direction is so hapless.

Good supporting turns from James Ransone and Anson Mount should help the film a lot more than they do. RZA is likable and almost good but not exactly. Max Landis’s script is all about broad humor and Cabezas can’t direct it. It’s astounding Rockwell is able to power his way through the material, even more impressive he’s able to bring his costars along with him. It’s unfortunate he has to carry Kendrick; she ought to have enough to do to get through on her own, but no. Landis and Cabezas give her less and less as the film goes on.

Also good support from Katie Nehra, who has a thankless part as Kendrick’s friend.

Michael Eklund is not good. It would help if he was good. He’s second fiddle to Ransone’s comedy villain.

Mr. Right has its charms–Rockwell and Kendrick, who don’t exactly have chemistry but they do appear to be having fun. While it should be much better, it could be a lot worse.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Paco Cabezas; written by Max Landis; director of photography, Daniel Aranyó; edited by Tom Wilson; music by Aaron Zigman; production designer, Mara LePere-Schloop; produced by Bradley Gallo, Michael A. Helfant, Rick Jacobs and Lawrence Mattis; released by Focus World.

Starring Sam Rockwell (Dancer), Anna Kendrick (Martha McKay), Tim Roth (Hopper), James Ransone (Von Cartigan), Anson Mount (Richard Cartigan), Michael Eklund (Johnny Moon), Katie Nehra (Sophie), Jaiden Kaine (Bruce) and RZA (Steve).


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