‘Wonder Wheel’

WonderWheel_1Sht_FM1It’s 1950s Coney Island and, in his latest feature, Woody Allen (Annie Hall, Vicky Cristina Barcelona) explores the failed American dream as both Ginny (Kate Winslet – Titanic, Steve Jobs) and Humpty (Jim Belushi – Saturday Night Live, Red Heat) struggle through a claustrophobic marriage.

Living in a run down shack overlooking the pleasure park, money is tight, laughter rare – the perfect environment for the arrival of Humpty’s estranged daughter from his first marriage. Carolina (Juno Temple – Atonement, Maleficent) has left her husband – a small-time New Jersey mobster – with nothing to her name.

As his name suggests, Humpty is in for a great fall as Ginny becomes involved in an affair with the local lifesaver (narrator of the film, Justin Timberlake – The Social Network, In Time) and Carolina disappears.

With more than a nod to the anger and melancholia of missed opportunity of  Tennessee Williams and 1950s British kitchen-sink dramas (Look Back in Anger, A Taste of Honey, Saturday Night Sunday Morning), Allen is in a sombre mood in what is essentially a chamber drama that sadly veers too frequently towards silliness and melodrama, wasting an excellent cast.

Rating: 44%



‘Triple 9’

triple9Starting with a violent bank job and police chase, Triple 9 is hardly original (and in its early stages, somewhat confusing). But what unfolds is a gritty and atmospheric storyline of corruption, bent cops and the Russian mafia.

Director John Hillcoat (Lawless, The Proposition) continues to explore the male world of loyalties and sudden violence, with an impressive cast queueing to play against type – Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, Secret in their Eyes), Anthony Mackie (The Avengers, The Adjustment Bureau) and a wonderfully blousy Kate Winslet (The Reader, Titanic) as a Russian mob leader.

But it’s the quiet dignity of Casey Affleck that provides the focus to a film that is considerably better than its story. Hillcoat just needs the right material to become huge.

Rating: 60%

‘Steve Jobs’

SJB_Tsr1Sht5_RGB_0818_1-780x1235It may veer from the truth and nothing but the truth in the telling of a few key years in the life of Steve Jobs, but Danny Boyle’s biopic, Steve Jobs, is an electric, quick-fire, multi-layered drama written by Aaron Sirkin (The Social Network, Moneyball).

Overcoming the ‘controversy’ of looking nothing like Jobs, Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave, Shame) is magnificently self-aggrandising in the title role – a modulated performance of ego, self-confidence and God-like arrogance… (And to think the portrayal has been toned down from the real thing). And whilst Jobs is “the conductor to his orchestra” (maestro would have been more self-appealing), the bit players in this unfolding drama are unanimously excellent, with Kate Winslet receiving her seventh Oscar nomination.

Rating: 76%

‘The Dressmaker’

dressmaker_xlgAdapted from Rosalie Ham’s very funny novel of the same name, The Dressmaker is hugely entertaining and quintessentially Australian – in spite of the lead played by Brit, Kate Winslet (The Reader, Titanic).

The 1950s outback is perfectly created, Tilly Dunnage’s frocks are glorious (as is Winslet’s command of the local accent), Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games) provides the beefcake – and Judy Davis (A Passage to India, To Rome With Love) as Mad Molly steals the show.

There’s comedy, pathos, tragedy and romance all rolled into one unabashedly entertaining feature.

Rating : 74%

‘A Little Chaos’

a-little-chaos-poster-aThe flow of A Little Chaos is stilted and stagey, creating a somewhat stolid telling of what should have been something of a rococo romp.

Oscar-winning Kate Winslet (The Reader, Titanic) and Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust & Bone, The Drop) provide dignified honesty to proceedings, but it’s a missed opportunity – far too controlled for anything as remotely exciting as ‘chaos’.

Rating: 49%