Hear Helen Roar (Movie Thoughts: I Am Woman)

Unjko Moon’s ‘I Am Woman’ tracks the life of Helen Reddy, and I think most people have forgotten her already, but once upon a time she was a force – the singer who may not have been the hippest, but whose anthem song roused females, and became the theme for the feminist movement.

Musically, I remember more from her, and also once upon a time little me would sing her other big hit ‘You and Me Against The World.’ I realized I knew next to nothing about her life, so I welcomed this film with open arms.

The screenplay, by Emma Jensen, is by-the-books music biography, not dissimilar to VH1’s ‘Behind The Music,’ and no cliche and trope is left untouched. But somehow, I liked a lot of this film still. Tilda Cobham Hervey’s performance as Reddy resonates – she takes command of the screen when she is on, both as an actress and as a singer. The visuals are topnotch – the cinematography and production design take you instantly to the cheesiness of the 70s aesthetic, And Evan Peters as her husband/manager Jeff Wald somehow manages to make a human out of a cardboard character. Against all odds, you will feel for these people, because they feel real – they were. I think perhaps the story and the film could have been tightened (its running time is just short of two hours) but as it is, the film would probably be a crowd-pleaser. It’s not any worse than ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ for sure,

Human Animals (Film Thoughts: Animals)

1vn3Dt7ZC5SnKI can’t decide if I liked Sophie Hyde’s film ‘Animals.’  But let me tell you. I am still thinking about it. Based on her book, Emma Jane Unsworth writes about a story of friendship, between Laura (Holliday Grainger) and Tyler (Alia Shawkat), who have a ten year friendship. Essentially, the story would revolve around the fractures of their friendship when Laura meets a man. But somehow it is a little more than that. This is a story of how art is made, of how we fall in and otu of love with people and friends, and of even the fragility of relationships. There are times when these characters exasperated me, and I feel like the film is going nowhere (some scenes are bewilderingly cut for no reason) but then I get to a point where it all kind of makes sense. In a way, it is like dealing with our own relationships – we commit and we get frustrated, but we persevere, and we survive.

Capsule Collection #2 (Movie Thoughts: Standing Up For Sunny/The David Dance/After Words)

Some capsule thoughts:

1stsMV5Is Cerebral Palsy funny? I guess it sis when the character who has it also is a stand up comic.  RJ Mitte is Travis, and he is cute and adorable, which makes this filma little easier to swallow. It’s a little on the weird side. Travis has a blind Samoan roommate and his love interest is bulimic so there’s a lot to process here. But in its heart is a sweet love story, and I had reservations, for sure, while I was watching this, but I eventually got on board. There are stranger things to watch that are not as appealing.

 

 

4eda82d6d31401a5b6bf5dec26b0559fApril Winney’s ‘The David Dance’ just seems so dated.  Everything about it seems to be from another time, and it’s so slow and tedious that I was instantly cored by it. This is based on Don Scime;s stage play and it probably played better on stage because the film just feels so flat and lifeless.  I understand even admire the core of the piece, and while these issues are still relevant today, the manner they are presented here is so yesterday.  And I am sorry, Scime’s acting doesn’t translate well here. This is a big miss.

 

 

After-WordsI lapped the idea of ‘After Words.’ A librarian  who has led a quiet life finds herself at a crossroads, then goes to Costa Rica with a plan to off herself. She has decided she has led a fruitful life and wants to end it on her terms. Starring Marcia Gay Harden, the film feels so familiar – you have seen all of this before, and then some. So it is up to the actors to make you believe. But harden cannot rise above the cliches and rote situations the director has put herself in. There are wonderful shots of the Costa Rican countryside that can make this film worthwhile, but barely.

Feliz David-ad (Music Thoughts: Baby It’s Christmas, David Campbell)

220px-Baby_It's_Christmas_by_David_CampbellI remember David Campbell from his New York City Cabaret days, and I remember he was one of the first people to sing the wonderful song ‘Grateful,’ composed by John Buccino. But then he kind of disappeared and I know he has enjoyed more success in his native Australia, and if I am not mistaken, he is now some kind of television presenter there.  And now he has released a new Holiday album, ‘Baby It’s Christmas,’ and it’s a nice pleasant album. I wish I could describe it better, but really, that’s all it is. It has a nice solid Holiday repertoire – your ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ mixed in with a ‘Jingle Bells.’ The arrangements will please everyone, and I like that he covers Harry Connick Jr’s ‘When My Heart Finds Christmas.’ Australian Rick Price has an original for him, the title track, and yes, it’s all really easy to listen to. But it’s also kind of generic, and does not take any risk at all. It would be a hit for department stores. I guess when you hear these songs over and over, you kind of look for a little edge. There’s none here.

Jazz From The Young (Music Thoughts: When I Fall In Love, Jessica Young)

downloadOn Jessica Young’s Soundcloud page (here) the blurb for her have her described as  “a little bit Sade, a lot Billie Holiday, a dash of Janis Joplin.”  Tall orders, for sure. As I listen to her album ‘When I Fall In Love,” I can say I don’t get the Sade at all (on the album cover she looks a little bit, maybe) and there is no Joplin rawness, but there does seem to a bit of Holiday mannerisms.  What I do hear is someone young with good musicality, if a bit green on lyrical interpretation. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – she will obtain life experiences and her singing will deepen, and richer. Maybe she will even shed her Billie mannerisms and vocal stylings which sometimes sound forced because she wants to sound ‘jazzy.’  But she isn’t bad at all here, and shows a lot of promise.  For sure, I can sense that she has great affinity for this music and will evolve on her own. But for now, not just yet.

Pop Goes Jazz (Music Thoughts: Now Then, Fem Belling)

1485193300_folderFem Belling, apparently,  is originally from South Africa, but now resides in Australia. She was a contestant in the Australian version of ‘The Voice,’ and has now released a jazz album.  But this is not your usual run-of-the-mill jazz vocals album, because in ‘Now Then,’ she covers some very well known pop songs of today, and gives them jazzy arrangements. The result? It mostly doesn’t work for me, as I sometimes sense that she is trying just a bit too hard trying to translate this songs for jazz listeners. She opens the album with Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself,’ and that was embarrassing, in my opinion, because what made that song great was Eminem’s rage, and by her taking that out in her version, the song just lays flat in her arms. And while ‘Physical’ is a cute 80s pop, it’s not really much of a song, and no amount of rearranging can salvage it. Pharrel’s ‘Happy’ sounds a little better, though you feel like she is singing a different song in her version (That may be good or bad) One song that works well in her reinvention is ‘Moves Like Jagger,’ but maybe that’s because it’s very close to the original, arrangement wise. I didn’t much enjoy this album, for sure, but I am glad there are artists like belling who try to break the mold.

I Like To Like (Television Thoughts: Please Like Me, Season 4, Thursdays at 9:30, Australian Broadcasting Network ABC)

please-like-me-s4It’s already the fourth season of ‘Please Like Me,’  and that is a great thing. It is a show that I always catches my attention – for better or worse it always gets a reaction for me, whether positive or negative, and at most times, both. It started off as a gay Australian version of HBO’s Girls, but for me better than that, because for me, the writing here is more interesting. Or maybe I can identify with it more.

So when Season 4 starts, Josh (creator, actor, and director Josh Thomas) is still together with Arnold (Keegan Joyce) and I liked that set-up because maybe I think Joyce is a fantastic actor, and he settles Josh down, a neurotic foil for Josh’s neurosis. On the first episode of the season, they even explore getting a threesome, and it became more interesting the guy they chose was more into Arnold than Josh. As we go into the second episode, we see both Josh and Arnold breaking up. That threw me off – I was convinced a bulk of this season was going to explore their relationship. By the third episode, we see Josh already dating, and I did not like that direction at all, thinking it will be just reasons for Josh to be kissing and dating numerous guys, and yeah isn’t where we first started? A twist at the end of the episode gave me hope – maybe I am not that wring about having Josh and Arnold’s relationship explored.  Thoas said in an interview that part of his goals is that he wants to go against what people are expecting, so that seems to be the case, for me anyway.

So I will keep on watching.

My Baby’s Got A Secret (Television Thoughts, The Secret Daughter, Prime 7 Australia)

57c7b28dae6d6_nonpremium_tv_promos_autv_tvbuzz_thesecretdaughter_lrg-1bsfckdGuess what show I am a little bit addicted to right now?  It’s the new one from Prime 7 in Australian television, called “The Secret Daughter,” starring Jessica Mauboy. Mauboy is a young Australian treasure, half-Indonesian, and half-indigenous, and she has a lot of star power. I know she was discovered in Australian Idol, and had a couple of hit records in young-diva mode. Here she shines as an actress. I honestly did not even realize she was one, but she has a very expressive face and you cannot help but look at her when she is on screen here. She is a winner.

Well, the show =, maybe not as much. The plot – about a ‘secret daughter’ of a hotel magnate – falls in a lot of soap machinations, but you do kind of believe, thanks to a great cast led by Mauboy.  Her character, Billie, lives in rural Walperinga, and due to circumstances is brought to modern Sydney because she may or may not be the secret daughter of the Norton patriarch, who owns a luxury hotel. The first episode was kind of slow, partly because they had to introduce the characters, but things picked up after that, and I am now hooked in the machinations of the family as they try to accept Billie as their own. Some families are more welcoming than others, of course, and it is interesting how their dynamics will weave in and out of Billie’s story.

Secrets And Lies (Movie Thoughts: The Daughter)

_315x420_d17ea4ce45f53c54a8f9561be732ff586e0d20e79373b4648d0b0ac173fb47fd“The Daughter,” directed by Simon is apparently loosely based on Ibsen’s ‘The Wild Duck,’ but I would not know since I have not seen or read that play. But initially, i thought this was one of those costume pieces, and that’s what initially attracted me to it. As it turns it, this is set in fairly modern times, and there’s even a topical set up wherein a mill is closing in rural Australia leaving a whole town virtually jobless. The patriarch of the mill and of his family, Henry (Geoffrey Rush) is getting married to his much younger housekeeper, and his son, Christian,  who has been living in the States (Paul Schneider) has gone home to attend the wedding, and his presence opens old wounds and reveal secrets that break families apart here. At first I thought the whole thing very soap-y but there is such elegance and restraint in the storytelling, and the acting, that I was immediately taken by all of it. In the hands of a hack director, I could have imagined the screaming, pleading, face slappings, but this film is a celebration of subtlety, just like real people in real life situations.  I thought everyone did a great job, but I was especially impressed with Miranda Otto, who plays Charlotte, the bearer of the ‘big secret.’ You are perhaps supposed to be enraged at here, but I took her side instantly. And it was nice to see teh Ajstralian scenery, which gave the film its allover moody glow.