The Australian cinema releases today could not be more different. I mean, Terrence Malick's Palme d'Or winning film The Tree of Life and Michael Bay's likely-repulsive Transformers: Dark of the Moon are both hitting cinemas. Come on! A film from one of my favourite directors, and from one I loathe. I actually saw Tree of Life at the Sydney Film Festival earlier in the month, and it really is one of the most amazing films I have ever experienced. Seriously, you have seen nothing like it before. On a technical level, it is an absolute masterpiece. Every frame is stunningly beautiful, the editing is insane, the score is chilling. The plot (yes there is one, despite its rejection of traditional narrative structure and minimal use of dialogue) is totally engaging, and the performances of Brad Pitt and Hunter McCracken are superb. Some have called it meandering and pretentious. Yeah, it's a bit of that too. But to honour Malick's lofty ambitions alone, you must see this film. It is quite an exhausting film to analyse and absorb in a single viewing, hence my decision to watch it again before I complete my review. Also released are the Michael Winterbottom/Steve Coogan/Rob Brydon collaboration, The Trip, and the Jim Carrey film Mr Popper's Penguins.
The Tree of Life - I mentioned above why this film should be seen. Don't see Transformers. See this. The Tree of Life is the impressionist story of a Midwestern family in the 1950's. It follows the life journey of the eldest son, Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father (Brad Pitt). Jack (played as an adult by Sean Penn) finds himself a lost soul in the modern world, seeking answers to the origins and meaning of life while questioning the existence of faith. Through Malick's signature imagery, we see how both brute nature and spiritual grace shape not only our lives as individuals and families, but all life. Essentially, The Tree of Life is about everything - childhood, innocence, parenting, family, love, life, death, faith and nature. Not everyone will love this film, but everyone should at least experience it.
The Trip - Playing loose versions of themselves, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon reprise their hilariously fictionalised roles from Tristam Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story and reunite with acclaimed director Michael Winterbottom for an acerbically witty, largely improvised ride through the English countryside. Tapped by The Observer to review fine restaurants throughout northern England, Steve finds himself a travelling companion after his girlfriend decides not to go at the last minute. The pair attempt to navigate the winding back roads of rural England, impersonating popular celebrities such as Michael Caine, Al Pacino and Woody Allen (among others), bickering and trying to oneup one another along the way. It may work better as as a television miniseries (as originally aired), but this is one frequently hilarious ride. Check out my review of The Trip.
Mr Popper's Penguins - In this family comedy, Jim Carrey is Mr. Popper, a driven businessman who is clueless when it comes to the important things in life - until he inherits six penguins. Popper's penguins turn his swank New York apartment into a snowy winter wonderland - and the rest of his life upside-down. I'm not going to see it, but it could be a bit of fun.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon - The newest overblown, pointless, soulless, tedious and insulting effort from actioneer and hack, Michael Bay. Okay, that's jumping the gun a bit, because I am yet to see the film most are calling 'slightly better' than Revenge of the Fallen. Being slightly better than one of the decades worst films doesn't have me lining up for hours to see the film...like...some...people. Okay, this time round Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is back as the American hero, helping the Autobots take down the Decepticons again. The Autobots have learned about a Cybertronian spacecraft hidden on the moon, which was actually known about during the 1969 Moon landing. Chaos and indistinguishable battles in downtown Chicago (apparently) ensue as the Decepticons try and invade again. Megan Fox has been replaced by Rosie Huntington-Whitely, who's actually hot, but the film runs for 154 minutes. This is very bad news because Revenge of the Fallen was only 149 minutes. Oh dear.
Weekly Recommendation: Definitely The Tree of Life, though The Trip is also great. This week I intend to re-watch The Tree of Life and try and ordeal Dark of the Moon.