Bill Hunter

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Strictly Ballroom Review


Good
There is weird cinema, and there is Australian cinema. There are weird movies about dancing, and there is Strictly Ballroom. Part Rocky with a touch of Blue Velvet, Simply Ballroom is the decidedly odd story of a boy (Paul Mercurio) and his tap shoes... a professional ballroom dancer who doesn't buy in to the rigidity the "sport" requires, instead busting out his own "crowd pleasing moves" and being frequently disqualified. His partner abandons him and he takes up with a plain Jane girl (Tara Morice), whom he teaches to be his new partner. Together, they manage to please the crowd even more, with or without music. What the film lacks in story, it makes up for with lots and lots of pompadours.

Now released on DVD (which includes a commentary from Luhrmann and his crew), it's easier to track Luhrmann's transition from Ballroom to Romeo + Juliet to the masterful Moulin Rouge -- and his road to greatness is an impressive one. Ballroom belies Luhrmann's love for the stage (beginning, Rouge-style, with a red curtain opening) and for gaudiness, but the tale is beyond his budget and sadly lacking in grandeur. Rouge took the ideas here -- from music to costuming to the idealistic hero -- and kicked it up about 20 notches. And in the process, Luhrmann learned how to make dialogue more thrilling and how to better develop his characters.

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Finding Nemo Review


Good
Offering further proof that the folks at Pixar are ceaselessly, unflaggingly more clever and imaginative than anyone else working in big-budget feature animation, the underwater CGI-animated "Finding Nemo" opens today -- and it's smarter, funnier and more entertaining than any other all-ages film so far this year.While Disney's in-house animators have been assembly-lining prosaic sequels ("The Jungle Book 2," "Return to Never Land") and re-imagined misfires ("Treasure Planet") -- and very occasionally coloring a little bit outside the lines ("Lilo and Stitch") -- the computer-'toon platoon at Pixar's Emeryville, California studios is supplying the Mouse House with delightfully creative products like "Monster's Inc." and this new adventure, in which an apprehensive, over-protective clown-fish father traverses the sea in search of his missing son.

The youngster was scooped up near his reef home by some monstrous, two-legged land creature in scuba gear and deposited into a Australian dentist's fish tank, populated by a colorful crew of fellow captives who help little Nemo (voice of Alexander Gould) hatch an escape plan. In the meantime, Marlin -- his fretful father with the perfectly anxiety-ridden intonations of Albert Brooks -- ventures deeper into the deep blue than he has ever dared before, determined to find the boy.

Helped along the way, if "helped" is the word for it, by a dingbat blue tang with short-term memory problems (and the oh-so-apropos voice of Ellen DeGeneres), Marlin finds his courage in dangerous adventures (mines and shipwrecks) and discovers friends in the forms of a surfer-dude sea turtle (voiced by Andrew Stanton, the movie's director), an astute pelican (Geoffrey Rush) who becomes his transportation into the dentist's office, and a trio of 12-stepping sharks who are trying to go vegetarian (including future "Hulk" Eric Bana and Barry Humphries, aka "Dame Edna").

Resourceful in its storytelling (the East Australian Current which Marlin must travel is akin to an underwater freeway crossed with a roller coaster) and reliably, steadily hilarious ("Hey, you're a clown fish," observe all the dopier sea critters who meet mopey Marlin. "Tell us a joke!"), "Finding Nemo" is also astounding to look at. Like a fantastical scuba dive, the picture's always-in-motion undersea universe would be downright photo-realistic if Stanton and his animators hadn't dialed up the cartoonishness just enough to give all the fish googly ping-pong-ball eyes.

Continue reading: Finding Nemo Review

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Finding Nemo Movie Review

Offering further proof that the folks at Pixar are ceaselessly, unflaggingly more clever and imaginative...

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