New Release Reviews -Electrick Children / The Sapphires / Deadfall


Electrick Children
Directed by: Rebecca Thomas
Starring: Julia Garner, Rory Culkin, Liam Aiken, Bill Sage, Cynthia Watros, Billy Zane
Like a companion piece to "Martha Marcy May Marlene", Thomas' movie similarly deals with a teenage girl escaping a religious community. It's star, Garner, actually featured in the former film as the newest recruit to John Hawkes' commune. Here she's a fifteen year old girl who lives in a strict Utah Mormon colony. After hearing a cover version of Blondie's "Hanging on the Telephone" on a mysterious audio cassette, her world-view is shattered. A few months later she becomes pregnant and claims it's an immaculate conception brought on by the cassette. Believing the singer to be the father, she flees the colony and heads to Las Vegas, presuming that a "city of electricity" like Vegas must be responsible for her situation.
Like her central character, director Thomas grew up in the Mormon faith and clearly has a bone to pick. She's made the cinematic equivalent of holding a preacher in a headlock while you administer painkillers to his daughter. It's an unabashed, fist-pumping celebration of modernity, secularism, music, medicine, freedom and indeed electricity. How you view religion will temper your enjoyment of the film. If, like me, you love technology, civilization and progress and believe religion is man's biggest mistake, you'll fully appreciate this film. Politically, it's the polar opposite of the anti-interventionist message of "Beasts of the Southern Wild".
In a year of great performances by young actresses, Garner delivers one of the best. She makes the character entirely lovable and her social awkwardness is equally charming and heart-breaking. Thomas' direction is simple but assured and alongside Andrea Arnold, Julia Leigh and Lynne Ramsey, we seem to be living in a golden age of female film-makers.
7/10
Electrick Children (2012) on IMDb 6.3/10



The Sapphires
Directed by: Wayne Blair
Starring: Chris O'Dowd, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens, Miranda Tapsell
Based on a true story, "The Sapphires" is the tale of four aboriginal girls who formed a soul group to entertain American troops in Vietnam. 
It's unfairly been labelled "The Australian Commitments" but this is a technically far superior movie. Australia has been producing a lot of quality film-makers and director Blair gives us the sort of good-natured fun movie Hollywood seems to have forgotten how to make. With it's vivid colors, "The Sapphires" recalls the golden age of Hollywood musicals and the first number is a homage to "West Side Story".
O'Dowd is a likeable presence as the loveable rogue who manages the group and introduces them to the joy of soul music. If you're not a fan of soul music you'll struggle to enjoy the movie but, let's face it, if you don't appreciate soul music you'll probably struggle to enjoy life itself.
This year, Australians have given us quality arthouse fare with "Sleeping Beauty" and "The Hunter" and here they successfully take on Hollywood at their own game. "The Sapphires" proves you can be light and breezy without being trite and cheesy. It's cinema you can tap your foot to, how can you not enjoy that?
7/10
The Sapphires (2012) on IMDb 7.2/10




Deadfall
Directed by: Stefan Ruzowitzky
Starring: Eric Bana, Charlie Hunnam, Olivia Wilde, Kate Mara, Kris Kristofferson, Sissy Spacek
Austrian director Ruzowitzky received much acclaim for his 2007 WWII drama "The Counterfeiters". Presumably this is how he came to assemble such a stellar cast here as I can't imagine the script winning any fans. Bana and Wilde are two siblings on the run follwing a heist in snowy Michigan. There's an incestuous relationship hinted at between the two but it's clumsily handled, as is every element of this mess. 
Ruzowitzky seems to be aiming for the sort of crime ensemble the Coen Brothers have regularly explored. The snowy locale and Mara's irritating accent seem to serve no purpose but to remind us of the vastly over-rated "Fargo". 
The film could be subtitled "Daddy Issues: The Movie" as every character seems to have an estranged relationship with their father. The real issues that need dealing with are those of the script however.
3/10
Deadfall (2012) on IMDb 6.8/10


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