David O'Connell

Melbourne, Victoria, AUSTRALIA

Joined April 24th 2008

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Avid film score collector, film fanatic, reader (crime fiction/modern literature mostly), sports watcher - from a couch! Also review Australian films at www.infilm.com.au


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September 17th 2014 05:00

Director Richard Linklater has had an enviable career. From one project to the next, he seamlessly crosses spheres from his home ground in the indie arena to the mainstream Ė and without ever selling his soul in pursuit of the almighty dollar. His reputation was initially forged with Slacker (1991), Dazed and Confused (1993), and Before Sunrise (1995) which would become the first leg of one of cinemaís finest ever trilogies. Later, there was his commercial breakout School of Rock (2003), but now heís settled into a pattern of seeking out a broad range of consistently interesting projects, the best of which include the wonderful Me and Orson Welles (2008) and flawed but compelling rotoscoped Philip K. Dick adaptation A Scanner Darkly (2006).

One that has long captured his attention finally sees the light upon its completion. Shot over the course of 12 years, Boyhood (2014) is a film of extraordinary ambition and daring. Without the ability to foresee the changing circumstances in the lives of its creative participants, Linklater imagined a series of ordinary lives unfolding in real time. The simplicity of the narrative belies its subject matter. This is a literal coming of age as Mason (Ellar Coltrane) negotiates his way from a boy of six through to his first hopeful day of college. Around him, relationships alter, renew, fall apart. His sister Sam (Lorelei Linklater, the directorís daughter) is a constant, his father (Ethan Hawke) returns intermittently to the frame, whilst his mother (Patricia Arquette) has trouble choosing stable partners, forcing a number of upheavals as the family regularly bounces around Texas.

The aging of the characters is far from a novelty. We quickly become invested in these lives, even as they move sporadically. Regularly we leap months in a single bound, forcing another re-evaluation as to where everyone has landed. The narrative has the feel of genuine memory, a juxtapositioning of good and bad days that intermingle in our own memories, later to be contorted or softened according to their importance in forging our own identities or maintaining happiness. The genius of Linklaterís writing is in trusting itself to reflect a common, relatable reality. There are no grandstanding moments, confounding twists or other contrivances. Rather itís the weight derived from an accumulation of observant, insightful, truthful scenes that allows the film to expand upon its own core immodesty.

Shot for only two or three days each year of its production, Boyhood may long be regarded as Linklaterís masterpiece. He incorporates elements of the castís lives, especially Coltrane, whose interest in photography is organically integrated into Masonís own expanding teenage consciousness and his desire to capture it artistically. Watching this understated, talented young actor grow up before our eyes in just under three hours is, in some sense, surreal, like an elaborate magic trick accelerated to warp speed.


The Grandmaster

September 3rd 2014 04:36

Wong Kar-Waiís long gestating follow-up to the greatest disappointment of his career - the English-language flop My Blueberry Nights (2007) Ė sees him back at the peak of his powers. A visually stunning martial arts film streamed with operatic gestures and aesthetically enriched flourishes, The Grandmaster (2013) tells two intersecting stories. One is of Ip Man (Tony Leung), the formidable new post-war contender from Foshan who is chosen to tackle the best fighter put forth from the other end of China by the regionís Grandmaster (Qingxiang Wang). The story of the daughter of the Grandmaster, Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi), also becomes a major part of the narrative as she seeks to uphold her fatherís honour and impeccable record.

The film tends to ramble along episodically without imparting much in the way of detailed background or character building, even when it comes to the famed Ip Man who would later become known for mentoring Bruce Lee. Itís the artfully wrought fight sequences, including an opening set-piece in drenching rain, that provide the real highlights, thanks to Kar-Waiís extraordinary vision and the execution of cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd. The CGI enhancement of the battles isnít in the least distracting, whilst the mix of severity and sincerity in the demeanour of the directorís long-time collaborator Leung, provide a perfect balance. The film is hardly hurt, it must be said, by the ravishing beauty of Zhang Ziyi, who is surely the most exquisitely beautiful actress alive Ė at least without earlobes.

As The Grandmaster reaches its final stages, Kar-Wai takes time to slow down and emotionally connect the two lead characters. In turn, through the fading recollections of Gong Er, it becomes an affecting, poignant meditation on life, the passage of time, the strength of familial bonds and the indelible markings of deep regret. Even if the voiceover tends to express these core messages with a certain triteness that might make a Hallmark Card staffer green with envy, the earnestness involved means much of the narrative thinness can be partially overlooked. Adding to the excitement is a wonderfully varied and colourful score by another of the directorís returning artists, composer Shigeru Umebayashi.

The Grandmaster opens in Australian cinemas on Thursday, September 4.


Into the Storm

September 3rd 2014 04:32

Anyone who has ever seen the ground breaking TV series Storm Chasers will regard this big budget copycat as a poor manís version of the real thing. Tossing into the blender some lame rehashed elements of Jan de Bontís Twister (1996) and creaky generic loved-ones-in-peril plot devices from a thousand other disaster Ďepicsí and you have the thoroughly serviceable but undistinguished Into the Storm (2014). The film is directed by Steven Quale who made his debut with the fifth instalment of the Final Destination series but who has on his CV second unit duties on James Cameronís Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009), and written by John Swetnam whose other new film Step Up All In (2014) provides, in its title alone, a fair sized indicator of the intellectual level at which this film has been pitched.

Peopled by cardboard cut-outs posing as flesh and blood human beings, the film begins mostly with found footage type video of a high-schooler, Donnie (Max Deacon), and his smart-arse younger brother, Trey (Nathan Kress), as the former attempts to compile a time capsule of his life to offer his future self, not to mention his over serious father and vice-principal (Richard Armitage). Cue a series of lame, inarticulate ponderings that lead to Donnie isolating himself with potential girlfriend once the mother of all storm systems touches down in their home town of Silverton, wreaking havoc on a gargantuan scale.

Itís in the post-production phase that Into the Storm has been transformed into something that will thrill and entertain audiences craving for little else. A series of increasingly elaborate set-pieces in which all variety of debris, including cars, trucks and aeroplanes Ė but no discernible farmyard animals unfortunately - is callously and brutally tossed about like shrapnel by Mother Natureís whims. Itís often jaw-dropping stuff, even if we have little investment in whether or not the various pursuing characters - including a humourless, nauseatingly dedicated storm chaser (Matt Walsh), a meteorologist (Sarah Wayne Callies), or for blunt comedic effect, a pair of moronic hillbillies hoping to profit from subsequent YouTube infamy Ė are impaled, dissolved or blown away, so long as the mayhem of the carnivalesque light and sound show returns at regular intervals.

Into the Storm opens in Australian cinemas on Thursday, September 4.



August 27th 2014 04:38

Vernon, Florida (Morris, 1981)

August 20th 2014 08:34


July 31st 2014 02:30

Deliver Us from Evil

July 23rd 2014 04:29

Reaching for the Moon

July 16th 2014 04:24

Tim's Vermeer

July 9th 2014 04:39

Raze (Waller, 2013)

June 25th 2014 03:52


Recent Comments

Comment by David O'Connell
on The Two Faces of January

June 25th 2014 04:10
Thanks fog! Will definitely be a part of that, would be great to build a sense of community here again amongst people with a passion for film amongst other things. Actively supporting one another's efforts sounds like a winner.

I think you'll enjoy this one mate - not the most riveting narrative of all time but impeccably acted - by Viggo especially - and a classy production all round.

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Comment by David O'Connell

June 24th 2014 06:16
Great to see you back here again fog and writing!!
Sadly missed in this ghost town of ours.

I haven't seen this yet but have been hearing plenty of other positive words too. Oblivion wasn't too bad all things considered and this seems like a step up in quality from that. You're right about Cruise too - much maligned but regardless his star power is undeniable and his presence alone is usually enough for me to give many of his films a chance.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on How I Live Now (Macdonald, 2013)

April 15th 2014 06:34
I've heard that. Would definitely like to read the book at some stage to see how much has been altered.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on In Bob We Trust

October 31st 2013 02:06
Many thanks for the anecdote fog, hope you're doing well these days mate!

And yes, Father Bob is indeed a truly great man! A national treasure.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on Kick-Ass 2

August 21st 2013 04:44
Thanks Bryn, you're a harsh man! But I do remember you not quite getting onto the original's wavelength too. The film is superfluous in the extreme - I'll be the first to admit that, but I just can't hate it.
I actually loved Carrey in this but his role is absurdly underwritten; there was real potential there I think for something great.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on Antiviral

April 17th 2013 06:01
Hey Bryn, Rialto Distribution have got this. Had the media screening last week and sadly it's only screening at the one cinema - the Nova - down here from the 25th. Hopefully it's getting some sort of a look in up your way too.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on Killing Them Softly

April 2nd 2013 01:05
Great to hear that JD. It baffles me though how many people tell me how much they couldn't stand this. Obviously incapable of appreciating its finer, subtler qualities, which is a real shame.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on Side Effects

March 10th 2013 10:36
Yeah mate, apparently it's painting and occasional theatre that will occupy his immediate future, perhaps TV work too if it's top-notch. But says he's done with features - a little sad, I love his chameleonic qualities even if his rapid output means he's a little hit and miss. The Limey, Underneath, King of the Hill and Out of Sight will long remain favourites.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on The Woman in Black

March 10th 2013 10:32
Yeah, quite looking forward to seeing this again on DVD Janice, very underrated little film - and a creepy one too despite the conventional, manipulative chills.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on Skyfall (2012) - Trailer Included

February 18th 2013 04:27
Audacious choice JD, can't say I'm with you despite enjoying it a lot, but you're a critic of great conviction.

My favourite scene of the film, hands down, is the intro to Bardem's character: that single, long take shot over the tied-up Bond's shoulder, with Bardem descending in the lift at the other end of the building, then delivering that brilliant monologue as he slowly approaches. Magic. Just a brilliant scene in the way it's both devised and executed. So simple and yet, in today's rapid-editing overload how often do we see something similar in a big blockbuster? That's the true benefit of hiring artists like Mendes and Deakins.

I do love Thomas Newman's score too, one of modern cinemas most influential composers really stretching himself in a type of film he's never really been handed before.

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