RT on DVD: Spooky Kids, Fashionistas and Cannibals

Welcome to the party, kids; try not to feast on your fellow man

by | January 21, 2010 | Comments



There are few things creepier in this world than a really creepy child and Orphan delivers the goods.

In the wake of a family tragedy, Kate and John Coleman decide to adopt a daughter. At the orphanage they develop an instant connection with the quaintly odd, smart as a whip, devil-spawn Esther (Isabelle Fuhrmann). Their son, Danny (Jimmy Bennett), struggles with his new sister almost immediately while the youngest, Max (Aryana Engineer), who is deaf, adores her on sight. But something is most definitely wrong with Esther and from the moment she steps into the house, the Coleman’s lives begin to unravel.

Films starring children should, more often than not, be avoided at all costs. Child actors can be tedious, shrill and smug but in this film each child delivers a strong performance. Vera Farmiga also does well as the mother who’s past indiscretions and flaws are brought out into the glare under the wilful manipulation of their new little ray of sunshine. The only weak link is Pater Sarsgaard’s John. Sarsgaard does a fair enough job but his character is deeply irritating beyond repair.

Despite being built around a great concept, the movie does indulge the odd cliché and dips into tedium at around the half way mark. Stick with it though because just at the point when you are considering wandering off to make yourself a cup of tea, there comes a twist and things get interesting. So interesting in fact that you will wish they had dropped this piece of information earlier.

Orphan is by no means a masterpiece but it is an intriguing addition to the ‘evil child’ genre and well worth the rental. The special features include some deleted scenes and an alternate ending.


The September Issue

Anna Wintour is a legend. She is the editor-in-chief of Vogue, the devil who wears Prada, the “Nuclear Wintour” and possibly the most feared person in New York.

R. J. Cutler’s The September Issue follows her staff as they work feverishly under her cool gaze to produce the 2007 September issue of Vogue, an 840-page tome that is the largest single issue of a magazine ever published.

Anna Wintour is a fascinating woman yet she is not the most interesting thing in this documentary. Rather it is the way people react to her that will keep you glued to the screen. She comes across as cool, certainly, but also measured, smart and driven. She knows what she wants, and under the shade of her almost childlike page-boy bob, she gets it.

Life is not quite so simple for those around her. They fear her. Do not underestimate that sentence. Her staff ashen in her presence, they tremble, they work desperately to anticipate her, to please her, but these are not easy tasks. With the exception of a brief visit to her home, we do not get much of a glimpse of Anna the woman but we do get to see her power.

One of the most interesting relationships in the documentary is between Wintour and her Creative Director, Grace Coddington. They have worked side-by-side for twenty years and, from Coddington’s nervous disposition, you can’t help but think it hasn’t been the easiest of roads. Still, Coddington is Wintour’s match in terms of genius and despite the tension between the two, the mutual respect is evident. Coddington is the only person in the Vogue office feisty enough to take the great one on and it makes for wonderful entertainment.

Special features include the theatrical trailer and some deleted and extended scenes.


Van Diemen’s Land

This is the true story of Alexander Pearce, one of our country’s most notorious convicts and his escape, with seven other prisoners, from a hard labour camp in Macquarie Harbour. With only flour and meat to last a couple of days, and nothing but forest in sight, the end of the world can become a remote and godless place.

Under the cinematography of Ellery Ryan every glimpse of the Tasmanian landscape is breathtaking. Yet for all its harsh beauty this place is more a prison to the convicts than the hell from which they have fled.

As the men grow more desperate it becomes clear that their only chance for survival is to sacrifice the weak.

This is a deeply challenging film. It takes its time. The men’s suffering is relentless and their means of survival, confronting. It could so easily have slipped into mindless horror, or even a grotesque black comedy. Rather, it withstands as an intelligent and fascinating study of human nature and our overwhelming drive for survival.

Hunger is indeed a strange silence.

The DVD release is packed with special features. There is an audio commentary with director and co-writer Jonathan auf der Heide, co-writer and lead actor Oscar Redding and cinematographer Ellery Ryan. You will also find four featurettes: A Journey Up River: Making Van Diemen’s Land; The Battle of the Beards; Subtleties of the Slate; and From Bailbo to Van Diemen’s Land.

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