Movie Review ~ 2067

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The Facts
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Synopsis: By the year 2067, Earth has been ravaged by climate change and humanity is forced to live on artificial oxygen. An illness caused by the synthetic O2 is killing the worlds’ population and the only hope for a cure comes in the form of a message from the future.

Stars: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ryan Kwanten, Leeanna Walsman, Deborah Mailman, Matt Testro, Damian Walshe-Howling, Aaron Glenane

Director: Seth Larney

Rated: NR

Running Length: 114 minutes

TMMM Score: (2/10)

Review:  I wasn’t too far into the new sci-fi flick 2067 when it struck me how much effort was put into a movie that far too few people will actually see.  Sure, nowadays films are shot on an iPhone and released on YouTube but this Australian funded and produced film looks to have had not a small amount of money spent on it yet it’s arriving within the VOD space during a very busy release week.  With nothing to set it apart from the flock, it needed to have some hook to attract the attention of viewers that would want to put other anticipated titles aside and choose this one instead.  If the film had been better, I might shed a tear or two but this is such a rote, run-of-the-mill time-travelling to the past to save the future (but with a TWIST!) endeavor that the entire affair hardly seems worth the two hours you could have spent on a more original idea.

Like last week’s similarly-themed LX 2048 which brought us to a future where the sun’s rays had become lethal, in 2067 we’re almost a half century onward and now the Earth’s air has grown toxic.  The population treats pure oxygen as a hot commodity with the clean stuff going for a pretty penny after its discovered living too long on artificial oxygen is even more deadly.  Underground worker Ethan Whyte (Kodi Smit-McPhee, ParaNorman) toils long hours in dangerous conditions in order to make enough money to keep his ill wife (Sana’a Shaik) healthy for as long as possible.  Working alongside his quasi big-brother who has been looking out for him for years (Ryan Kwanten), he’s surprised when the company he works for that also dabbles in tests to find a cure for the plague requests his presence at their headquarters and offers up a striking proposal.

Seems that Ethan’s late scientist father (Aaron Glenane) had been experimenting in time-travel and had nearly made it work before he mysteriously died.  The work has continued with his colleagues continuing to send messages through a portal and they’ve only now just received a message back…and it points to Ethan as a possible solution to Earth’s impending doom.  Offered a chance by the company’s head officer (Deborah Mailman, The Sapphires) to take a leap of faith and find the answers that will save the Earth, Ethan will also come face to face with dark truths from his past that continue to haunt his present….even as he explores a future world that he may never make it back from.

If there’s one thing to say about writer/director Seth Larney’s futuristic film, it’s that it looks pretty good for an independently produced sci-fi spectacle.  Though obviously working with a smaller budget than your typical blockbuster, there are some very nice effects at times in 2067 but on the other hand quite a lot of the movie takes place in one of two specific sets that are just redressed to different time periods.  The truth of the matter is that this is, frankly, boring and doesn’t justify it’s incredibly long run time.  What might have had the makings of a short episode of the revamped The Twilight Zone has been stretched to a punishing feature length that can’t support it’s very meager plot littered with questionable twists and performances that are surprisingly shoddy for some and outright poor for others.

Between this and LX 2048, it’s obvious that there’s a 20 year period in our future that’s looking pretty bleak…a bad sign when things in 2020 aren’t feeling so hot either.  It’s disappointingly acted and while Australian films are often produced to handsome results, aside from a few nice visuals it’s by and large a cheap looking show that doesn’t earn any points for originality.  There’s far better options for you in the VOD world right now and 2067 is an easily skippable one.

Movie Review ~ The Sapphires

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The Facts:

Synopsis: It’s 1968, and four young, talented Australian Aboriginal girls learn about love, friendship and war when their all girl group The Sapphires entertain the US troops in Vietnam.

Stars: Chris O’Dowd, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens, Miranda Tapsell

Director: Wayne Blair

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 108 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (6/10)

Review:  Make no doubt about it; The Sapphires is a movie with a mission.  It’s a film that wants so badly to appease its audience and appeal to the masses that it sacrifices some chances to let a more honest story develop.  What the film does have is a healthy dose of charm that helps propel the movie to a viewing experience that’s nigh-joyful if not completely memorable as the days go by.

In 1968, three Aboriginal sisters from the Australian Outback team up with their cousin to form The Sapphires, a girl group managed by Dave Lovelace (O’Dowd, Bridesmaids).  Together, the five travel to Vietnam to perform for the troops, face old feuds, and discover themselves in a country torn apart by war.

A true life tale adapted from a stage play penned as a tribute to relatives of the author, The Sapphires transitions easily to the screen with the help of director Blair and screenwriter Tony Briggs.  Original cast member Mailman was a wise choice to bring along for the film version because she brings an earthy realness as the eldest sister that takes on a mother hen tough love role for the group.  There’s a barely there subplot about some family turmoil but the film excels when it’s focused on the rise of the group from singing in local bars to belting out R&B tunes of the day to soldiers on the front lines.

In addition to Mailman there’s fine work from Australian Idol finalist Mauboy as the youngest sister with the best voice and biggest attitude.  Tapsell is a hoot as the sister that never gets her way while Sebbens is less effective in an underwritten role.  That leaves O’Dowd who many critics credit with giving the film its best shot at mainstream appeal.  I don’t think O’Dowd is a noticeable enough star to pack ‘em in but his game performance is very appealing.  Like Bridesmaids, I think he benefits greatly from having a confident female in a leading role for him to play off of – I didn’t find much chemistry between O’Dowd and Mailman though the movie tries it damndest to create some sort of spark.

The musical numbers are staged well making the film not simply Dreamgirls Down Under and several moments create the kind of giddy excitement that doesn’t come around much in film these days.  Yet underneath it all is a manipulative presence suggesting the film is gung-ho about having its cake and eating it too.  It’s smaller budget make some of the Vietnam sequences look fairly fake and I liked the film most when it was exploring the origins of The Sapphires and utilizing some local color for a reality check.

The Sapphires swept the Australian version of the Oscars this year, winning 11 of its 12 nominations and becoming one of the biggest box office hits of the year.  While the film has struggled to find an audience outside of Australia, the Weinstein Company (who, as Miramax, had a nice run of Australian imports like Muriel’s Wedding in the mid 90’s) is throwing some cash behind it to see if it can catch fire here as well.  It’s an enjoyable film and one I wanted to root for but with its predictable contrivances it falls just shy of being the crowd-pleasing home run it so wants to be.  Going along with the baseball metaphor, let’s call this one a base hit…maybe a double if you factor in some strong performances.