Welcome to the movies at PS News.
Each week, PS News's film critic Victor Rebikoff will highlight the latest offerings from the silver screen and share his expert commentary for our information and guidance.
Mao’s Last Dancer
Director: Bruce Beresford, Village Roadshow Films, Rated PG, 117 mins
Bruce Beresford’s magnificent production, Mao's Last Dancer is a stirring and uplifting adaptation of the best-selling memoir by Li Cunxin.
Cunxin is the Chinese ballet star who defected to the United States in 1981 while on an exchange scholarship with the Houston Ballet Company.
Cunxin’s extraordinary story is cleverly told through a series of wonderful flashbacks beginning in rural China when, as a young boy of 11, he is selected to attend Beijing’s Dance Academy.
Here he undergoes seven years of harsh training before being noticed by a visiting American choreographer, Ben Stevenson (played with great flair by veteran actor Bruce Greenwood, of National Treasure fame).
Stevenson arranges an exchange with his Ballet Company in the United States.
Li Cunxin’s love of ballet is matched by his initial love for a dancer, Elizabeth (Amanda Schull) who is one of the major reasons he cites in refusing to return to China.
His refusal causes a huge diplomatic incident as well as some dramatic scenes at the Chinese Consulate which result in the engagement of renowned immigration lawyer Charles Foster (played by Twin Peaks star Kyle MacLachlan) and a US Federal Judge (played by affable Australian icon Jack Thompson in a cameo role).
Beresford’s brilliant film was filmed in Australia, China and the United States and set during China’s ‘Cultural Revolution’.
The film’s brilliance is due in large part to Australian screenwriter Jan Sardi who managed to transform Cunxin’s extensive biography into a melodramatic screenplay.
Beresford’s choice of Chi Cao in the important role as the adult Cunxin was also faultless.
In bringing Cunxin’s powerful story to the big screen, Australian director Beresford (Breaker Morant) has cleverly ensured there is an even balance between the political overtones of the story, Cunxin’s love of his art and his determination to become a successful ballet dancer-even showing some awe-inspiring dances including the famous Swan Lake (thanks to Australian Graeme Murphy’s superb choreography).
Because of Cunxin’s remarkable story of courage, defiance, love and perseverance, Beresford’s production often strikes at the heart strings, providing the audience with a memorable movie experience.
It is therefore no surprise that it was a huge hit at the recent Toronto Film Festival and will no doubt have a similar impact with Australian audiences–similar to Cunxin’s book which became a best seller following his move to Australia in the 90s with his Australian born ballerina wife.
VIC'S VERDICT: 4 ½ Rubber Stamps
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Release Date: 14 October 2009
Director: David Hand, Rated G, 85 mins
Disney’s much anticipated announcement that its golden classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is being released on 14 October 2009 will delight the young and the old and bring much joy to the legions of Disney fans around Australia.
Just as this first full-length animated movie has delighted children and adults for over 70 years (since its first release in 1937), the Diamond Edition Combo Pack (including the DVD of the original Disney masterpiece with commentary by the legendary Walt Disney) will have particular appeal to a new technologically savvy generation.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is the time-honoured story of a beautiful princess (Snow White) whose continuing beauty finally upsets her stepmother the Queen.
Snow White is forced to flee into the forest to avoid being killed by the Queen’s assassin, and finds safety with a group of seven dwarfs.
Disney’s Diamond Edition Combo Pack comes with a fantastic array of bonus features especially the Blu-ray version including:
The Diamond Edition of this timeless classic allows the magic and personality of the Disney characters to actually come to life as never before and is a must in any home movie collection.
VIC'S VERDICT: 5 Rubber Stamps