The Sapphires

20131122162310the_sapphires_posterDirector:Wayne Blair

Actors: Chris O’Dowd

Deborah Mailman

Jessica Mauboy

Shari Sebbens

Miranda Tapsell

Tory Kittles

Eka Darville

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Musical

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%

Synopsis: In 1968, four smart, gutsy young Australian Aboriginal women become unlikely stars by singing for the U.S Troops in Vietnam. With the help of an R&B loving Irish musician, Dave Lovelace, they transform themselves into a sizzling soul act and set out to make a name for themselves hundreds of miles from home. Inspired by a true story, The Sapphires is a celebration of music, family and self-discovery.

Review:

You can’t just ask someone why they’re not black. But you can, however, ask them to sound more black. Which is one of the first problems facing The Sapphires, a 60’s aboriginal girl group born down under.

The Sapphires is the true story of a remarkable group of women who managed to put together a girl group and travel to Vietnam. Co-written by one of the sons of the real-life singers and directed by Wayne Blair, this movie packs a punch and a amazingly good soundtrack.

The movie opens up with two stark facts. 1. Until 1967 Aborigines in Australia were not considered humans by the government and 2. The government had the authority to remove the light-skinned native children from their families to make them a part of white community.

We meet the future Sapphires as children, about to put on a show for their families. Halfway through, however, the light-skinned cousin is taken away to become a part of the stolen generation. It’s a powerful, painful beginning.

A decade later, the three sisters – Gail (Deborah Mailman) Julie (Jessica Mauboy) and Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell) decide to enter a singing competition. Braving the racism of the croud, they sing an American country western song. The accompanist (Chris O’Dowd) is a washed-up mess who nevertheless recognizes their potential and helps them form The Sapphires. They reconnect with their stolen cousin Kay (Shari Sebbens), switch from country to Motown and pass the audition to go perform for the US troops in Vietnam.

Once there however, it’s not an easy road for any of them. A girl group with four members means a lot of opportunity for romance, drama and power struggles. Luckily, the Sapphires manages to avoid falling into a Behind the Music hole by matching fabulous 60’s soul songs to the real life drama happening off stage and on. It’s a hard journey for them, dealing with the valor of the GI’s, the still present racism, and the death and horrors happening around them.

The Sapphires is a movie with a lot of heart (I was going to say soul, but Ugh). Form the get go it’s packed with tension and hurt and love. The actors do an incredible job of balancing the frustrations felt along with the joys. Its not an easy movie to watch at times (especially as Gail and Kay deal with the fall-out of the stolen generation) and Mailman does such an incredible job with her protective ferocity.  In addition, the soundtrack manages to add even more oomph to an already great movie. Seriously – these ladies can sing. Anyone who enjoys Motown – I Heard it through the Grapevine, Super Pie Honey Bunch, and other hit classics are performed- will love this movie.

I really enjoyed this movie. It was equal parts sad and funny, uplifting and depressing. It’s a new look at race issues that still impact the world today, and manages to neither harp on nor ignore the seriousness of the issues that the girls face. However, the Sapphires is more than that. It’s a celebration – of family, of good music and life. It’s an amazing movie based on amazing people. Fitting, no?

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P.S. While the issues of the stolen generation is an important part of this movie, an excellent film that really delves into those issues is Rabbit Proof Fence. I would highly recommend that movie as well.

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Pacific Rim

PACIFIC RIMthDirector: Guillermo Del Toro

Actors: Charlie Hunnam

Idris Elba

Rinko Kikuchi

Charlie Day

Rob Kazinsky

Max Martini

Ron Perlman

Genre: Action & Adventure

Run Time: 132 minutes

Rotten Tomatoes: 71%

Amyliabedelia Grade: A+

Plot Summary: A ragtag band of humans band together in the year 2025 to fight legions of monstrous creatures rising from the sea. Using massive piloted robots to combat the alien threat, earth’s survivors take the fight to the invading alien force lurking in the depth of the Pacific Ocean. Nearly defenseless in the face of the relentless enemy, the forces of mankind have no choice but to turn to two unlikely heroes – a washed up former pilot and an untested trainee – who now stand as earth’s final hope against the mounting apocalypse.

Review

ARE YOU READY TO CANCEL THE APOCALYPSE?

As my friends can attest, I love this movie. LOVE. This. Movie. If I could see this movie all day everyday I probably would, but since I am a ‘functioning’ person, I cannot. But why? The plot is dumb. ‘It’s just Godzilla vs. Transformers’ my friends complain to me. ‘Hush up’, I snap back, ‘and prepare to listen’.

In the future massive alien beasts called the Kaiju have emerged from a rift in the ocean floor, sending humanity into a mad scramble to survive. Their solution? Giant robots piloted by two people whose minds are linked together. These giant robots – called Jaegers – engage the Kaiju directly, preventing them from making it to land. Over time however the Kaiju have become more evolved, and it’s becoming harder and harder to push the invaders back. In a last ditch effort to save the world, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) recruits veteran Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnan) to pilot one of the last remaining Jaegers in the world. That’s right – humanity’s solution is literally to fight aliens with the power of friendship.

Pacific Rim’s fight sequences and overinflated technology is undoubtedly one of the biggest draws to this movie. The visuals are stunning, and each fight between Jaeger and Kaiju amps up the ante, unleashing new moves for each one. While I enjoy watching robots and aliens pummel the crap out of each other, I love Pacific Rim because of the emotions behind it, silly as that may sound.

The ‘hero’ of the story is Raleigh Becket, who loses his brother in the films exposition and gives up Jaeger piloting as a result. This is doubly traumatic – jaeger pilots have to link on every level, physical and emotional. Raleigh believes that he has lost his co-pilot, and quickly fades into obscurity to work on the wall, a bureaucratic response to the Kaiju invasion (hint: it doesn’t work). While his backstory is super predictable I was pleasantly surprised by Raleigh’s character. When he is introduced to Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) his future co-pilot, he treats her with respect and deference. It is so REFRESHING to see such a humble, well-characterized ‘hero’ of an action film. Usually they just do whatever they want to do, spewing misogyny and getting the girl anyway. This doesn’t happen here! Mako and Raleigh’s relationship is far more friend/friend or mentor/student than girlfriend/boyfriend. Let me repeat that: HE RESPECTS HER. THEY ARE FRIENDS AND COWORKERS AND DON’T END UP TOGETHER. But such a thing is typical for Pacific Rim, which at its core is about relationships.

The movie may be billed as an action film, but it has a huge heart behind it. I watch it and I think of all the important relationships in my life – siblings, friends, family – and all the way that we work together. Sure the characters in Pacific Rim are just that – characters. But they feel so real. They have to struggle to work together, and nothing comes easily for them.

Moving away from the story aspect of Pacific Rim, this movie also deserves recognition for its fantastic shots. As I said before, the visuals are stunning. The Shatterdome (the home base for humanity’s last stand) reminds me of a World War 2 bunker. It’s a refreshing change from all the futuristic movies that I see today, where interiors seem to be composed almost entirely of white chrome. Pacific Rim is a movie based on people’s sweat, tears and blood. Nothing about it is pretty, but it’s such an effective visual piece.

Guillermo Del Toro has often been hailed for his visions and in depth world building. Pacific Rim is no different. We are treated to decades of backstory in twenty minutes, and he considers how finances would work, how popular culture would absorb the jaegers and the ‘celebrity’ of jaeger pilots. It’s amazing the amount of detail that he manages to create in such a short time – Hong Kong’s bone slums, for example, are just a small piece of the movie that has a powerful impact. Del Toro manages to build a world that feels lived in, even if you’ve only seen it in a minute.

Pacific Rim is a movie about people, first and foremost. It’s about humanity deciding to work together to keep out a threat, and they do it in the best of ways – by creating literal soul bonds. That’s awesome. This movie is awesome, and I could probably keep going on and on about how important this movie is to me, but I should stop now. Please, go watch Pacific Rim. If you think it’s just another dumb action movie, that’s fine. But if you think it’s as brilliant as I do, then please drop by my inbox.

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