MOVIES: July 05, AU Edition

Also: DreamWorks’ latest fails to excite, and don’t expect
a rush of copycat oyster farming flicks any time soon

layer-cake-4.jpgLayer Cake
Released: July 14, 2005
Rated: MA
4 stars

Boy, is the cast of Layer Cake ugly! But that’s the joy of British gangster films – forget Hollywood glamour, in these flicks the mobsters aren’t pretty or even all that smart. Instead they all have bad teeth and wear horrible parachute-cloth tracksuits.
Layer Cake is a great name for the film because the viewer is taken through several character stories in rapid succession. Don’t go to this movie tired or you’ll never keep up.
Daniel Craig plays the lead role as the most attractive gangster (which is not saying much; he is still horribly pock-marked). He’s so successful as a top-level drug dealer that no-one knows his name – and neither does the audience. He’s planning to pull off one last deal before early retirement. No surprise when it all goes terribly pear-shaped.
To offload a shipment of ecstasy, our main man has to deal with crooks further up the drug food chain than he’s used to. Enter Jimmy Price, played by Kenneth Cranham, an unattractive dealer in every sense of the word. Of course, that leads to dealing with an even more unattractive mobster even further up the food chain, Eddie Temple, played by Michael Gambon (it’s hard to believe he played the loveable Professor Dumbledore in Harry Potter). Oddly enough, they don’t want one of their best dealers simply retiring. Go figure.
(There is one notable exception on the ugly front, the gorgeous Sienna Miller – who’s more famous for being engaged to Jude Law than for her acting – has a small part as the hero’s love interest. Her role is tiny but then so is her lingerie. One for the fellas.)
Add to that a drug deal gone wrong in Holland and a pissed-off Slavic hitman and the viewer is left with a lot of action that turns out to be smart, funny and ugly.
Just the way it should be.

Released: June 16, 2005
Rated: PG
3 stars

Whenever I hear DreamWorks has a new animated movie, I hope for a Shrek. I always forget that DreamWorks also made the disappointing A Shark’s Tale. Madagascar falls into the second category. It’s not a multi-leveled family film that adults can get a kick out of too. This one is for the kiddies.
The animation is reliably impressive and the story has a lesson, so as a film for ankle-biters it’s fine. It’s the tale of a group of animals from the New York Zoo. Alex the Lion (voiced by Ben Stiller) is living it large on steak and adoration from his fans. His friends include Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock) who wants to break free, Melman the hypochondriac Giraffe (David Schwimmer) and Gloria the streetwise Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith).
Marty leads a break-out of the zoo in search of adventure and they all get caught and sent to Africa. But on the way they get shipwrecked in Madagascar. They have no idea how to act in the wild. It’s like Survivor for accountants. They stumble across a colony of lemurs ruled by the amusing King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen) and his right-paw-man Maurice (Cedric the Entertainer). Insert musical number here.
Trouble is brewing (or should that be stomachs are grumbling?) because Alex the Lion misses his daily steak fix. He’s a meat-eater. He starts seeing Marty the Zebra as food. Alex even tries to take a bite out of Marty’s butt. I can only assume forcing the kiddies to confront the dynamics of the food chain is the reason for the
PG rating.
There’s a great running-gag involving a pack of plotting penguins that act like elite special forces soldiers and a funny re-enactment of an American Beauty scene. But that’s it for the grown ups. So if you are a non-breeder who has to take someone else’s bin-lids to the movies, Madagascar is non-offensive and slightly amusing. But that’s it.
They can’t all be Shrek.

july05moviesart.jpgOyster Farmer
Released: June 30, 2005
Rated: M
3 stars

From the very first shot you can tell Oyster Farmer is using the scenery as another character in the film. It shows the Hawkesbury River as a stunning yet isolated place to live. And the people who live and work on her banks have to cope with its ebbs and flows.
Oyster Farmer is a gentle movie about a young guy (played by Alex O’Lachlan) who escapes a pain-filled life by working with an eccentric community of, you guessed it, oyster farmers. His love interest (played by Diana Glenn) is a local who grew up in the area but longs for the trappings of city life – like fabulous shoes.
Both have secrets. And yet both are drawn together. There’s stealing, lying and jumping to conclusions. O’Lachlan is handsome in a typically Aussie way and brings the right amount of depth to his character Jack to show just how uncomfortable he is in his own skin. Glenn captures a naivety you’d expect from someone brought up in those conditions. Both play true Aussies without falling into parody.
The standout role is Brownie (played by David Field). He’s a weather-beaten farmer battling a temperamental crop of oysters. Field is best known for his performance as Bob Hawke in A Night We Called It A Day, but I think this is some of his finest acting yet. His estranged wife (played by Kerry Armstrong) is sexy and strong but ultimately under-utilised.
The trouble with the film is that the story line meanders along like the Hawkesbury River. There isn’t enough drama. Too much is left unsaid; each sub-plot needs more guts. Yes, Oyster Farmer feels like a film about real people, but as we all know, real life can be a tad boring.
I wouldn’t recommend rushing to the cinema to see it, but if you’re looking for a rainy night DVD selection it would be a comfortable choice. Perhaps with a half-dozen Sydney Rocks on the side.