Dvd let­ter­box

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film Reviews - Michael Bodey This week

A VERY mixed bag of dra­mas hits home en­ter­tain­ment this week as the Christ­mas cin­ema re­leases ar­rive. All four dra­mas look ap­peal­ing on the sur­face but don’t quite come to­gether. Which is not to say they don’t rep­re­sent ex­cel­lent view­ing.

What promised to be a dy­namic event, the adap­ta­tion of Tracy Letts’s award-win­ning play Au­gust: Osage County (MA15+, Road­show, 121min, $44.95) is the most po­lar­is­ing film of last year, about a dys­func­tional fam­ily of women.

Those who recog­nise the de­ment­ed­ness of Meryl Streep’s ne­far­i­ous mum and the chaos and res­ig­na­tion of her daugh­ters (Ju­lia Roberts, Juli­ette Lewis and Ju­lianne Ni­chol­son) love the melo­drama; those who grew up in sta­ble fam­i­lies are re­pulsed by it.

I won’t of­fer an opin­ion other than to note it is equal parts sour and hi­lar­i­ous, and gave Roberts the best movie line of the year: “Eat the fish, bitch!”

Sav­ing Mr Banks (PG, Dis­ney, 120min, $39.95) was adapted in Aus­tralia and ul­ti­mately made by the Walt Dis­ney Com­pany, as it had to be.

It is the story of Walt Dis­ney’s pro­tracted woo­ing of PL Travers, the au­thor of Mary Pop­pins. Tom Hanks is a solid Walt and Emma Thomp­son de­liv­ers a won­der­ful ren­di­tion of the snooty Aus­tralian-born au­thor who later took on all the worst airs and graces of a Pom.

If you don’t be­lieve the por­trayal, wait for the cred­its. It’s a ter­rific film, at its best in scenes be­tween the duo and in the stu­dio as the film story comes to cin­e­matic life.

But be warned: the flash­backs to Travers’s up­bring­ing in Queens­land (well, a Hol­ly­wood back­lot) are a bum note to Aus­tralians.

The adap­ta­tion of block­buster novel The Book Thief (PG, Fox, 131min $29.99), writ­ten by an Aus­tralian (Markus Zusak) and star­ring an Aussie (Ge­of­frey Rush), is pleas­ing and provoca­tive.

The tale of a young or­phan (a bril­liant Sophie Nelisse) who finds so­lace dur­ing World War II by learn­ing to read with a Jewish refugee is a lit­tle too warm for a Holo­caust pic. More Life is Beau­ti­ful than Schindler’s List, The Book Thief is smartly made and Rush is de­light­ful in a role al­low­ing him to mine his clown­ing skills. But it’s too sen­ti­men­tal to soar in such a dire set­ting.

The Se­cret Life of Wal­ter Mitty (PG, Fox, 114min, $29.99) so des­per­ately wants to soar. That was clear when read­ing an ex­ten­sive piece in The New Yorker mag­a­zine six months be­fore its re­lease. The pro­file of co­me­dian and di­rec­tor Ben Stiller noted his des­per­a­tion to make a mas­ter­work, and his be­lief in this pi­caresque epic based loosely on the 1947 film star­ring Danny Kaye. Sadly, hav­ing read that, it was clear it would not be.

Mitty doesn’t lack for am­bi­tion and Stiller de­liv­ers some ma­jes­tic vis­tas and beau­ti­ful sce­nar­ios. While a grand sight, it shouldn’t have starred Stiller as the day­dreamer on an un­likely jour­ney. The role doesn’t fit Stiller as well as his turn as Tugg Speed­man’s Sim­ple Jack in Tropic Thun­der but you wish Stiller would lighten up a lit­tle, par­tic­u­larly in his se­ri­ous drama.

The Spec­tac­u­lar Now

(M) Dis­ney (91min, $36.95)

The Veron­ica Mars Movie

(M) Warner (120min, $29.99)

(M) Trans­mis­sion (90min, $29.99)

Made in Amer­ica

Reel Time with Michael Bodey,

ev­ery Wed­nes­day in The Aus­tralian

Out & About,

Cap­i­tal city cin­ema times:

page 28

May 10-11, 2014

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