Saturday, 19 March 2016

Heath Ledger

Heath Ledger was a Perth born Australian actor, who died in 2008 from an accidental intoxication from prescription drugs, aged just 28. After a rise to fame in various Australian TV and film roles, he moved to the United States and found international success through films such as 10 Things I Hate About You, The Patriot, A Knight's Tale, Monsters Ball, I'm Not There, and blockbuster Batman film, The Dark Knight where he played the Joker - a role for which he posthumously won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, a Best Actor International Award at the 2008 Australian Film Institute Awards, the 2008 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor, the 2009 Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture, and the 2009 BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor.

In 2006 Ledger costarred alongside fellow Australians Abbie Cornish and Geoffrey Rush in the award-winning film, Candy, where he played a young heroin addict in love trying to break free from addiction. He received numerous Best Actor nominations for his role in 2005 film, Brokeback Mountain, where he played ranch hand Ennis Del Mar who has a passionate but painful love affair lasting many years with an aspiring rodeo rider Jack Twist, played by Jake Gyllenhaal. For the Heath Ledger MAP club session we watched Candy followed by Brokeback Mountain

I hosted the meeting this time,with my housemate and her boyfriend joining us for Brokeback Mountain. MAP club is open to everybody. But I feel I need to say, if you want to join, please do not join midway through a film and proceed to a) repeatedly ask questions about what is going on in the film, and/or b) make continuous obvious and boring comments about the film. Just don't. Having said that, it was a great night and our reviews on the films are below.


Billy on Candy: Candy was moving with strong performances by all, including a young Lette Pearl as supermarket checkout chick. Heath's character's desperate struggle to beat his addiction and support his partner is palpable. Some scenes are a bit difficult to watch, and sometimes I felt very sad. But I also felt the love and joy of a young couple trying to navigate life together. Trough the ups and downs of young love and addiction, the actors take you on the whole journey along with them, quite impressively, and I think this film deserves a much bigger reputation than it seems to have currently - it really is great.

Lette on Candy:

Billy on Brokeback Mountain: There are nude and sex scenes featuring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal (!). There, got that out of the way. The film isn't sex-driven at all actually. More it delicately paints a picture of a socially unacceptable love between two diverse, tender and confused humans. Ledger's performance is admirable. Generally my measure of a good acting performance is if I can forget about the actor entirely, especially with big names like Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. In Brokeback Mountain I was watching Ennis Del Mar, not Heath Ledger. Appearing simple on the surface, Ennis is a complex character anyone who has struggled with identity or has felt something outside the majority or the 'norm' can relate to, homosexual or otherwise. Like any good love story, Ennis and Jack's isn't short of challenges, and their story is presented beautifully in a mountainous Wyoming landscape that rivals the beauty of their passion.

Lette on Brokeback Mountain:

The Heath Ledger completion patch.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman is an American/Israeli actress, producer and director. Portman has been active in the movie industry for over 20 years, with notable roles in film such as the Star Wars prequel trilogy, CloserV for Vendetta, The Other Boleyn Girl, and Thor. In 2011 she won the Academy Award for Best Actress, as well as the BAFTA and Golden Globe award in the equivalent category, for her starring role in the psychological thriller-horror, Black Swan

In 2004 Portman played an eccentric epileptic and compulsive liar in the critically acclaimed Garden State, written and directed by Zach Braff. Her debut film role was 10 years earlier in the English-language French crime thriller, Léon: The Professional, where she played a 12-year old girl who finds herself as a hitman's protégée. For MAP club we watched Garden State followed by Léon.

Hosted at Lette's place, we enjoyed homemade pizzas (including the dough - don't let it prove too long!) featuring topping highlights such as spinach grown in the home garden, 2 types of cheese, and un(fortunately)pitted olives. We drank raspberry lemonade, ate homemade pavlova for dessert, and our thoughts on the films are below.


Billy on Garden State: Garden State was cute, but I didn't love it. I appreciate it isn't a conventional romance/drama/comedy and the characters are interesting. But it has puzzling plot turns at times and some of the important issues raised in the film, such as death, mental health and depression, could have been explored in more detail. But it deals with these issues delicately and intelligently, with a lot of light humour, making the film an enjoyable, moving and thought-provoking journey (not unlike other popular "indie" films). I particularly enjoyed the soundtrack, featuring artists such as The Shins, Simon & Garfunkel, and Frou Frou.

Lette on Garden State: I've always loved this movie, and I'm pretty sure I always will. I've seen it so many times and still find it endearing and lovely. Natalie Portman, Zach Braff and Peter Sarsgaard are all winners in my book. I think it was a very ambitious project from Zach Braff that definitely lived up to the hype surrounding it at the time. A very interesting shift from his comedy project Scrubs. The soundtrack compliments the film so well, I love that if features TWO tracks by the Shins and also In the Waiting Line by Zero 7 - that's a tune.

Billy on Léon: I enjoyed Léon a lot! It was a really unique story which gave rise to a very interesting relationship between a successful hitman and an orphaned 12 year old girl. In the context of a sad family environment and widespread police corruption, their relationship is super sweet, funny, tender, at times inappropriate, and fascinating. The undertones of migrant exploitation are intriguing too. In her debut role, aged only 12, Natalie Portman shines.

Lette on Léon: I thought I was across Natalie's film career - but I had never even heard of this movie. When I hired the DVD from the library for our club night the librarian gave a raving review. Maybe he could do a guest spot on the blog because he was on the money! The film's premise is dark but they manage elements of humour and fragility, big thumbs up from me.

The Natalie Portman completion patch.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Matt Damon

Matt Damon gained critical and public recognition for writing and starring in the Academy Award-winning drama Good Will Hunting with Ben Affleck in 1997. Since then the American actor and filmmaker has continued to impress critics and audiences with noteworthy roles in films such as the Bourne series, the Oceans trilogy, Dogma, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and The Departed. Damon is also recognised for his producing and his humanitarian work.

In 2009, Damon portrayed South Africa national rugby union team captain François Pienaar in the Clint Eastwood-directed film Invictus, which features Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela. The role earned Damon an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. This year he starred as astronaut Mark Watney, in Ridley Scott's The Martian, based on Andy Weir's best-selling novel of the same name. For this MAP club meeting we watched Invictus at home, followed by The Martian at the Newtown Dendy cinema in a MAP club first - MAP club at the movies! Geoffrey Rush was spotted at the cinema but he wasn't wearing a MAP club T-shirt so unfortunately I don't think he's in the club...yet.

For dinner we enjoyed a medley of foods in part supplied by Lette's cafe job. There was chicken salad, roast pumpkin and rocket, quiche, chocolate biscuits, orange juice and Ceylon tea. At the cinema we paid money for popcorn but snuck in our own blueberries from home. #frugal.
Our thoughts on the films are below with the Matt Damon completion patch!


Billy on Invictus: I hadn't heard of this film before - totes me every week in MAP club! I thought it was a very interesting story, very political and very encouraging. All of those positive things were mostly to do with Morgan Freeman's performance and Nelson Mandela's compassion, wisdom, political insight, and big heart. Damon was a little absent as the rugby team captain. Chester was a better character. I'm not overly familiar with the book or indeed the actual story though, so Matt may have portrayed an exact likeness to Piennar for all I know. Eastwood made some questionable choices for the soundtrack and the rugby action shots.

Lette on Invictus: I really liked how this movie captured 1995. Not only is it a snapshot of a very important time in South Africa's history, it's also a great snapshot of life in the 90's, lots of great tracksuits. Matt Damon did well as a rugby brute, not sure about the verdict on the accent, sounded reasonably South African to me. It was an entertaining movie, a few odd choices in the soundtrack at the hands of Clint Eastwood's son Kyle but I'll forgive him for that. This film reminded me of my lovely holiday to South Africa and the beautiful landscape of Cape Town but also reminded me that Robben Island was booked up for the week I visited and I missed out on visiting that important landmark. Thanks for that!

Billy on The Martian: I loved MAP club at the movies! I just felt so current and on trend, you know! #lols. I thought the Martian was great and a much more notable (noticeable) performance from Damon. I generally like Ridley Scott (flashback to Bladerunner. Never flashback to Prometheus - uck!) and I have to say direction-wise he beat Clint here. I enjoyed the innovative gardening on Mars, the scientific imagination, the (literally) out-of-this-world visions of stunning landscapes, and the 70s disco soundtrack. "I NEED SOME HOT STUFF BABY TONIGHT!" Now....Donald Glover. *swoon*. Glover pops up (again, literally) as a funny likable character who has the genius smarts to solve the ultimate problem of getting the stranded astronaut home to earth. SPOILER! (but does the plan work???). Donald is in my top 2 celebrities I'd like to date. Just sayin'. That's all.

Lette on The Martian: This was a perfect choice for the Matt Damon completion patch. Not many movies have such a focus on one central character but I guess if the movie is about someone being stuck on Mars then that's the point. I'm not 100% sure about the accuracy of the science behind growing potatoes on Mars, admittedly i'm not a botanist, but I was certainly entertained. We made a special trip to the local cinema for this review, such a treat, but during the film an odd lady starting stomping up and down the stairs. That provided a bit more drama and spectacle to the evening. I also saw Geoffrey Rush when I went to purchase the tickets, talk about an eventful MAP Club meeting.

The Matt Damon completion patch.
Who needs pants when you have an awesome MAP club shirt like this!

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Emily Blunt

Emily Blunt is a popular English-American actress who has appeared in films such as The Devil Wears Prada, The Adjustment Bureau, Looper, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, and Into The Woods, for which she has received critical acclaim and numerous award nominations. In 2011 Blunt starred in the comedy-drama Your Sister's Sister, which depicted interesting relationships and interactions between a woman in love with her best friend, her dead boyfriend's brother (the best friend), and her lesbian sister. 2014 saw Blunt star alongside Tom Cruise in the science fiction action blockbuster Edge of Tomorrow. Cast as a Special Forces warrior, Blunt has to help Cruise, who is stuck in a time loop, improve his fighting skills to defeat an army of extraterrestrial invaders. We watched Edge of Tomorrow followed by Your Sister's Sister in a recent MAP club meeting.

Lette hosted the session, employing the thermomix to produce a delicious dinner of fish and vegetables. We drank cheap white wine and ate pavlova (also from the thermomix) with dark chocolate (Lindt was on special that week) for dessert. Our thoughts on the films are below along with a photo of the Emily Blunt completion patch!


Billy on Edge of Tomorrow: Action films generally aren't my forte and I very much dislike Tom Cruise (a Tom Cruise MAP club meeting is mission impossible if you ask me). Yet, I quite enjoyed this film. Considering the film does repeat scenes a lot (it's just the plot - unavoidable really), it was cleverly put together so as not to irritate. We haven't really watched any true action or sci-fi films in MAP club yet so I welcomed the change - give my heart strings a rest, Lette! Blunt's character is fierce and she looks smoking hot!

Lette on Edge of Tomorrow: Emily Blunt is possibly my favourite actress so Billy put me in charge of choosing the flicks for this completion patch. I thought we'd give Edge of tomorrow a whirl as it's one of hers that I hadn't seen before and we haven't featured much of the action genre. Surprisingly entertaining. Emily's character is a bit of a powerhouse. This movie is an action version of Groundhog Day, that's my verdict.

Billy on Your Sister's Sister: People are sad sometimes. People get drunk and do stupid things sometimes. People are selfish and hurt each other sometimes. But people care for each other sometimes too. People forgive sometimes. People love sometimes. That's kind of what I got from this film. But while it may be based on quite simple human foundations, it's an enjoyable and quirky little story with great potential to make you both laugh and cry.

Lette on Your Sister's Sister: I could watch this movie over and over. It makes me wish Emily Blunt was my sister and very glad that Rosemarie DeWitt isn't. She's hard work, but in a great way. It's a very simple film in the way that it is set on a remote island and revolves around just three characters but it also manages to be very complicated. Love triangles, sibling rivalry and heartbreak are all represented beautifully. I love this film. 

The Emily Blunt completion patch.

Friday, 7 August 2015

James Franco

A recent MAP club meeting featured American actor James Franco. Now known for films such as The Interview, Pineapple Express, and the Spider Man trilogy, Franco's first notable acting role was actually in television, starring in the cult hit, Freaks and Geeks. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his lead role in 127 Hours - a Danny Boyle film about a real-life canyoneer who became trapped and stranded between a boulder and a canyon wall for over 5 days. More recently, Franco was cast as a Florida drug dealer alongside Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez in Harmony Korine's dark comedy crime film Spring Breakers. 127 Hours and Spring Breakers were chosen for MAP club.

We enjoyed honey teriyaki stir fry with chicken and vegetables for dinner, and a selection of cakes for dessert. We drank orange, apple, carrot, and ginger juice. We watched 127 Hours first, and our thoughts on the films are below.


Billy on 127 Hours: A moving and interesting film, 127 Hours is filled with contrasts. Beautiful vast canyon scenery becomes a dark, rocky cell. A free, adventurous, carefree and independent man becomes restricted, isolated, dependent, and desperate to survive. The film is very well-made, and particularly intriguing considering it's mostly shot around a single character situated in the same location for the majority of the film. James Franco's performance is excellent, and I'd recommend this film to everyone (just be ready if you're the squeamish type!).

Lette on 127 hours: I may have gone to a weird level on this film. I've now seen it 4 times and also read Aron Ralston's book detailing his ordeal - 'Between a Rock and a Hard Place', what a brilliant title. Even though I was very familiar with the story there is no way we could have earned our James Franco patch without this feature being featured. It's essentially a one-man show and he carries it so well. The film makes me seriously question what I would do in that situation and i'm fairly confident I would just lay down and die, I'm not that brave. But I'm also fairly sure I would never be in the horrendous situation of having to cut off my own arm to survive so the point is moot.

Billy on Spring Breakers: Franco's physical transformation for this role is impressive and he is committed to his character. Though I wasn't particularly moved by this film, I enjoyed it in parts, and I agree it's funny, in a ridiculous kind-of-way. I don't understand the hype, however, as I didn't think it was anything special. Generally, I think Spring Breakers can be kept with all Alien's other shit! 

Lette on Spring Breakers: I had heard good things about this film and now I'm starting to think all those reviews were by people that must have been hypnotized by the constant subliminal messaging that is James Franco whispering 'spring break 4eva'. If I took a shot every time that happened I would have finished the night white girl wasted. The scene that will lift this film to cult status is the sunset, poolside rendition of the classic Britney Spears track - 'Everytime'. Actually, there are a few scenes that pay homage to queen Britney and I appreciate that. I've been a Franco fan since Freaks and Geeks and I'm so glad he's maintained momentum in the film biz, this isn't my favourite film of his, but they can't all be as gold as Pineapple Express. *spring break 4eva*.

The James Franco completion patch.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Susan Sarandon

Susan Sarandon has enjoyed a successful acting career spanning 45 years. Known also for her social and political activism, she is an Academy Award and BAFTA winner, and can now add being featured in The MAP Club to her impressive list of achievements! Susan was nominated for five Best Actress Academy Awards in the 1980s and 1990s for memorable roles in Atlantic City, Thelma & Louise, Lorenzo's Oil, The Client, and Dead Man Walking (the role for which she won the Oscar). Some of her well-known films in more recent years include The Banger Sisters, Elizabethtown, Enchanted, and The Lovely Bones. During a rainy afternoon MAP Club meeting we watched the comedy-drama Stepmom, which sees Susan play a terminally ill mother who has to come to terms with the new woman in her former husband's life, and Lorenzo's Oil, the George Miller production about parents desperately searching for a cure for their son's rare disease.

For snacks we ate choc-raspberry Tim Tams and sour worms. Lette prepared a delicious Malaysian curry for dinner, and we drank beetroot, carrot, pineapple and mint juice. Our thoughts on the films are below.

Billy on Stepmom: Stepmom was generally enjoyable and Susan was convincing as a once confident and capable mother beginning to lose her strength, both physically and emotionally, as she is gripped by cancer while her motherly authority is challenged by her ex husband's new fiance (Julia Roberts). The film was both funny at times and sad at times, but I didn't think it was a particularly notable film in either regard. The 12 year old daughter character was annoying and poorly acted, and the feminist in me was disappointed when Julia's character was forced by her (male) boss to choose between caring for her stepchildren and keeping her job. Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell feature prominently in the soundtrack, which is pleasing, but I have to say there are plenty of mountains high enough, plenty of valleys low enough, and plenty of rivers wide enough to keep me from watching this film again.

Lette on Stepmom: I used to think this was one of my favourite films, and I still love it, but I just remember it being better. Maybe I was a little worried that I'd hyped the film a bit too much for Billy, but in hindsight out of so many Susan films to choose from, this maybe wasn't the wisest choice. The film makes me wish I lived somewhere that snowed at Christmas and had a mum that would make elaborate rugs for me (oh wait! I have that). In a way this film was an educational experience - I now know what snowblowing is thanks to Julia and her sassy speech. Thanks Julia.

Billy on Lorenzo's Oil: Conjuring up memories of my high school science class, Lorenzo's Oil intelligently depicts human compassion and the flaws of medical science alongside each other. When their young son is given the fatal diagnosis of a rare degenerating disease (ALD - adrenolenkodystrophy) the Odones devote every ounce of their being to finding a breakthrough to battle the disease, ultimately finding a treatment in olive and rapeseed oils that is still used today. For me, the film raises a whole range of interesting questions. How much do we still not know about disease and medicine? How much of what we do know is the result of chance encounters or determined (non-scientist) individuals? How do research time frames resolve with everyday lived experiences of disease? How much influence do drug companies have? How would people in less-privileged circumstances handle the same situation (The Odones are white, middle class folk with good western educations, family to support them and a house they could mortgage etc)? Is there a point where one 'gives up' hope? What makes the will to live so strong? How much suffering should a child endure to live? What quality of life is worth fighting for? When disease degenerates the body so much that a person cannot see, hear, communicate, move their body, eat or even breathe without machines and constant monitoring, are they still the person they were before? What makes a human human? This film is fascinating, thought-provoking, heartbreaking and full of hope. I highly recommend it.

Lette on Lorenzo's Oil: I hadn't seen this film before and I actually wish we'd hosted the Susan Sarandon MAP club meeting a few weeks earlier, prior to my Pathophysiology exam. Who knew this film would provide me with a much needed study session on long chain fatty acids!?! Either way I passed the exam, we can all rest easy, thanks anyway Susan. I thought it was an interesting film that depicts a really heartbreaking situation. Susan portrays the role of the devoted mother who is desperate for a cure, something that will ease the suffering of her child, she's very convincing indeed. I'll wear my patch with pride. 

The Susan Sarandon completion patch.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Brad Pitt

The MAP Club recently met for a night of Brad Pitt! An American sex symbol, Brad first gained international attention as a cowboy hitch-hiker in Thelma & Louise and has since starred in numerous hit films, including 12 MonkeysTroy, Oceans Eleven, Oceans Twelve and Oceans Thirteen, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and World War Z, among others. Pitt produced The Tree of Life and Moneyball, both of which were nominated for Academy Awards, as well as The Departed and 12 Years A Slave, both of which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. He is  married to American Actress Angelina Jolie, who he famously fell in love with on the set of Mr. & Mrs. Smith while still married to Jennifer Aniston. For MAP club we chose to watch the baseball drama Moneyball and one of Brad's most iconic films, the cult hit Fight Club.

The religious calendar prevented us from buying ingredients to cook dinner for the meeting so we had pizza delivered, taking us back to childhood slumber parties. We drank Mountain Dew and ate Easter chocolate. We had a great night with Brad earning another patch for our MAP club T-shirts, and our thoughts on the films are below.


Billy on Moneyball: "To be honest, I wasn't even really aware of this film before MAP club and I didn't know what to expect, but the film was both interesting and enjoyable. Brad gives a convincing performance as a former baseball prodigy now desperately trying to restore hope and turn around a struggling baseball team as an ambitious but controversial GM. Competing with clubs with much bigger budgets, Billy Beane (Pitt) employs a new assistant and uses mathematics, statistics and science to change the way the game is played forever. It's not my favourite Brad Pitt film but well worth a watch. Those not into sports shouldn't be deterred as the actual footage of baseball is kept to a surprising minimum."

Lette on Moneyball: "It's a film about a baseball team but there isn't really any baseball in it, genius! As with a lot of Brad Pitt films he's eating in most scenes, why does he do that? I've been looking on other blogs for the answer so I can include it in this blog but there isn't anything definitive. Jonah Hill is brilliant as always and extremely convincing as an economics nerd. Chris Pratt (dreamboat) is a welcome addition to the cast and it was a pleasant surprise to see Philip Seymour Hoffman in his role as the team manager. My verdict: Eye candy game strong, critical acclaim well deserved."

Billy on Fight Club: "I love this film! It's cool, it's surprising, it's intelligent, and it's funny. It's both critical of modern society's values and sexy at the same time. One could easily watch this film simply for the numerous scenes featuring a shirtless and ripped Brad, but actually it's the intimacy of the characters that drew me in, who are living on a psychological knife-edge. The film asks questions of the audience about the need to conform versus the desire to let go, the need for authority versus the desire to rebel, and the need for human connection versus the desire to be independent and free. Easily my favourite Brad film, I could watch Fight Club again and again. It's genius. Now, hand me the soap."

Lette on Fight Club: "There's no way we could have done the Brad Pitt MAP Club meeting without viewing this classic. Who would have thought a violent film revolving around a serial support group attendant and a soap maker would be so good?! David Fincher is one of the greatest directors of our time and he and Brad Pitt are such a winning combination, bravo boys. I love watching a film where the twist at the end is actually surprising and Fight Club doesn't disappoint, don't worry, no spoilers here. The wardrobe department deserve a mention for their impeccable rave ensembles Brad wears and the special effects at the end are a great reminder of how far CGI technology has come. My verdict: Brad in his prime, Jared Leto looks good as an albino." 

The Brad Pitt completion patch.
Billy's MAP club T-shirt.
Lette's MAP club T-shirt.