The Cup

   Director: Simon Wincer, Village Roadshow Entertainment, Rated PG, 121 mins

Just in time for “the race that stops a nation” comes veteran Australian director Simon Wincer’s stirring account of the 2002 Melbourne Cup and the obstacles faced by jockey Damien Oliver in overcoming overwhelming odds to win Australia’s premier horse race.
   Having earlier directed a movie in 1983 about the legendary Australian racing horse Phar Lap, Wincer has again chosen another champion horse that is part of Melbourne Cup history - Media Puzzle’s victory in 2002.
   The story essentially revolves around star jockey Damien Oliver (Aussie Stephen Curry - Rogue) and his difficult journey to win the Melbourne Cup after being chosen by Irish trainer Dermot Weld (Irish actor Brendan Gleeson, The Guard) to ride the Irish stayer, Media Puzzle, less than a week after his brother Jason (Daniel MacPherson) is accidentally killed in a race fall.
   And, it is an emotionally charged Curry who is shown dealing with the tragic events of his brother’s death - surprisingly similar to the way that their own father died.
The Cup
   As an Australian movie, Wincer has cast a number of well known Aussie actors who generate some wonderful performances especially Curry in the lead role of Oliver and Gleeson as the Irish trainer Weld as well as Tom Burlinson as Dave Phillips (having appeared as the lead actor in the Phar Lap movie) and Shaun Micallef as Aussie trainer Lee Freedman.
   There is also a treasured cameo role from legendary actor Bill Hunter in his last movie playing another legend, Bart Cummings.
   Wincer has effectively drawn on historical footage of authentic racing sequences but unfortunately has spent a fair bit of time in developing Oliver’s character that includes his special relationships with each of his family especially his mother, wife and brother.
   Oliver’s victory in overcoming great personal tragedy makes for a great story and Wincer is unashamed in focusing on Oliver’s personal journey, ensuring that it is both moving and tearful - especially the touching re-enactment of Oliver’s actual victory and his salute to the heavens in dedicating it to his brother.
   The Cup is an enjoyable and moving movie that will appeal to both horse racing fans as well as the wider audience but someone will need to bring tissues.
VIC'S VERDICT:       4 Rubber Stamps

Real Steel

      Director: Shawn Levy, DreamWorks, Rated M, 142 mins

Night of the Museumdirector Shawn Levy has skillfully combined the key elements of the Rocky and Transformers franchises to deliver an exciting robot boxing movie with Aussie actor Hugh Jackman playing the lead role of an ex-boxer Charlie Kenton who uses his robots to compete in robot bouts.
   The story for Real Steel is set in the near future where robot boxing is the current form of entertainment that provides audiences with the brutality of the sport without causing damage to humans.
Real Steel
   As shown in the initial scenes, Kenton (Jackman) is the owner of inferior robot boxers who witnesses his robot being torn apart at a country rodeo after betting $50,000 with promoter Ricky (Kevin Durand) - but absconds from paying him, adding to Charlie’s string of people being owed money.
   But Charlie’s life suddenly changes when he finds himself having to care for his 11 year old son Max (Dakota Goya) from an earlier relationship, with his only support coming from his love interest Bailey (Evangeline Lilly).  
   Levy has crafted an enjoyable storyline that focuses on the bond between a down and out father and his estranged son which takes place against the background of robot boxing competitions.
   With Max having reassembled an earlier model robot called Atom and having it win a number of robot bouts it is not too long before both father and son are drawn closer together and Atom finds itself in the national robot boxing championships - with some special boxing training provided by Max’s dad.
   Despite being an overlong movie there is some great robot action courtesy of Steven Spielberg’s CGI effects, and a good performance again from Jackman, especially Goyo who at times overshadows the lead actor.
   Like Cowboys and Aliens, here is another director mixing the genres but in this case it works to the benefit of the wider audience and Real Steel proves to be the real deal.
VIC'S VERDICT:       3 ½ Rubber Stamps

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