Movie Review – The Black Balloon

24 March, 2008


Thomas Mollison (Rhys Wakefield) is a sensitive adolescent, constantly changing schools as his regular Army father Simon (Erik Thompson) moves from base to base. Making life especially difficult for the Mollisons is Thomas’ autistic brother, Charlie, brilliantly played by Luke Ford. Charlie is a handful at the best of times, demanding constant attention and unable to communicate except via grunting and rudimentary signing.

Toni Collette is great (yet again) as the dynamic mother, Maggie Mollison. She displays endless love and patience for Charlie, and an amazing amount of energy, despite being heavily pregnant with a third child. Maggie and Simon are philosophical as to their ‘burden’ – ‘your mother thinks we got Charlie because we’re strong enough to cope’ – however Thomas struggles to deal with the attention that Charlie demands and receives from all in the family.

I enjoyed the scenes of Thomas’ life at his new school – those tight Warrick Capper uniform shorts brought back some embarrassing memories as did the bathers that Thomas is loaned on his first day at the pool. Despite being significantly less cool than the other boys at his school, and having his credibility ruined by having a ‘spazzo’ for a brother, Thomas manages to woo the lovely Jackie Masters (Gemma Ward), who provides a nice counterpoint to the insensitive bullying of Thomas’ other classmates.

Director/writer Elissa Down draws on her own personal experiences (she has two autistic brothers), and manages to perfectly capture the humour, love, despair, and challenges of living with an autistic person. There were a couple of particularly powerful scenes – the aftermath of Charles being left on his own; and Thomas’ disastrous 16th birthday party, to name a few – and a few very funny scenes.

The Black Balloon scores 4 stars and some big thumbs up for all of the cast.


Movie Review – Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

22 March, 2008


The title of the movie is taken from an Irish toast, ‘May you have food and raiment, a soft pillow for your head; may you be 40 years in heaven, before the devil knows you’re dead.’

Directed by 83 year old master, Sidney Lumet (Serpico, Network, Dog Day Afternoon), ‘Devil’ is a gripping and moving cinema experience. Two brothers, Andy and Hank Hanson, need money, and fast. The manipulative Andy comes up with a plan for Hank to rob the jewellery store owned by their elderly parents, however the devil is in the detail, and things quickly go wrong, with disastrous consequences.

Lumet makes great use of chronological jumps backwards and forwards in time, and shows the same scenes from various characters’ points of view, to slowly provide the audience with more and more information about the story. Sort of like Memento, but a bit easier to follow.

The cast are brilliant – Philip Seymour Hoffman seems a strange choice as the bitter and twisted Andy, though he pulls it off well (and gets to enjoy one of his rare on-screen pants-off moments – not a pretty sight); Ethan Hawke is perfect as the bumbling and downtrodden Hank; Marisa Tomei provides a nice balance as Andy’s unsatisfied wife Gina (her pants-off moments make much better viewing); and Albert Finney is convincing as Charles Hanson, the patriarch of the family. The stars feed off each other expertly, and bring newcomer Kelly Masterton’s excellent script to life.

Only a couple of criticisms: I thought a couple of Hoffman’s scenes were a bit overplayed, and the ending was a little unsatisfying, but overall, ‘Devil’ was an entertaining film and earns 4 stars.

The movie was also memorable for the complete stranger who sat next to me and peppered me with movie questions and commentary before and after the film. A strange dude indeed. Wakes thought he had a thing for me. Methinks chemicals played some role in his strangeness…

S.O.Y. Sauce?

21 March, 2008

Spotted at the Blue Train Cafe, Southbank:


Please, Please, PLEASE Do not FEED ‘The Birds’ Or they will S.O.Y.

(Some grouse punctuation in there, too.)

How many 5 year olds could you take in a fight?

19 March, 2008


Check out this classic quiz.

I don’t know if I should be proud or embarrassed that I could take 26 of the little buggers.

Wakes could take down 15 if she had to.

In taking the quiz, I would recommend keeping in mind that scene from the movie, Hostel, where a group of marauding kids attack and murder the baddies at the end.

Tarpins scratched

15 March, 2008

Unfortunately Tarpins was scratched yesterday morning and didn’t get to run at Moonee Valley last night.

Wakes and I were pretty disappointed: not only were we looking forward to seeing him run again, but were very excited about the chance to meet with Damien Oliver prior to the race. I had planned to take some ‘Ollie and us’ and ‘Ollie and Tarpins’ shots and get Damien to sign them for our Tarpins Wall of Glory – but it wasn’t to be.

Ollie hid his disappointment well by picking up another (last-minute) ride in our race – the other jockey unfortunately fell in the race before ours – and booting home the winner. The race was run perfectly to suit Tarpins’ preferred racing pattern, almost identical to how his two victories were run, so we were even more disappointed not to have him out there.

As they say in racing circles, ‘that’s racing’.

Back to the Eighties

15 March, 2008


My friend Jarrah has recently launched a new blog, Back to the Eighties.

Jarrah is a great writer with a passion for music. He is the founder and editor of the popular Hard Rock site Saviours of Rock. (I’m not sure what some of his hard rock fans are going to think of him branching out into the domain of 1980s – big hair, new Romantics, Wham, Culture Club etc).

Anyway Jarrah, good luck with your new site.

Tarpins details – MVRC Friday night

12 March, 2008

9.15 pm AEST

Race 6, Number 6, to be ridden by champion jockey Damien Oliver out of Barrier 1.