Robert Edwin Davis, 1928-2011

May 18, 2011

He was a character, my dad. But you knew that.

You knew it if you were fortunate to see him on the football field in his heyday in the ‘40s and ‘50s, the blistering pace that earned him the nickname ‘The Geelong Flyer’ distancing him from the opposition.

Or you knew it if caught him on television in the ‘70s and ‘80s, striving to keep order as the straight man to the cheeky Lou Richards and the deadpan Jack Dyer on Seven’s late-night footy show League Teams.

Or you knew it if you bumped into him at a match or at training or simply on the street and shared a quick chat about the form of the current Cats line-up or his memories of his playing and coaching days.

On the field and off, Bob Davis was a character. And he was also a man with character – he had time for everyone and never a bad word to say about anyone.

It’s what I’ll remember about him most of all: his unfailing good nature and good cheer.

I was born after Dad’s football career was over, so my knowledge of his prowess as a player and a coach came to me second-hand.

But as I grew up, it became increasingly apparent to me that his football accomplishments were manifold.

He captained the Geelong Football Club. He was a member of the team which, until recently, had the longest unbroken winning streak in the club’s history. He played in two Premiership sides.

As a player, he represented Victoria and Australia. And when he switched to coaching, he guided Geelong to another Grand Final win.

And I’ll admit it, it was sometimes a little hard to reconcile that amazing list of achievements with the fella with an appreciation for James Bond movies, B.B. King songs and the odd dodgy ‘dad joke’.

If he ever did allude to his glorious career, it was usually with his tongue in his cheek – he was proud of what he’d done but he didn’t see any reason to big-note himself.

There was no need, really, because anyone I ever met who knew of Dad as a footballer, a coach or a media personality made their admiration of the man abundantly clear.

I can only hope that he knew the level of the love his family felt for him as a husband, father and grandfather. In fact, I know he did – it was immense, and it remains so even now.

And that love goes beyond his immediate family to his unofficial but just as devoted family – fans of the Geelong Football Club, followers of Australian Rules football in general.

While we are united in our sadness, I also believe we are united just as much in our love and respect of a man who so wholly earned and deserved them.

Rest in peace, Dad. I love you.


Review: FAST FIVE

May 2, 2011

No, I'm not calling it FAST & FURIOUS 5

With Fast & Furious 5 (or to use its original, cooler title, Fast Five), the Fast and the Furious franchise makes the leap from guilty pleasure to straight-up, unabashed pleasure.

Of course, this hotted-up tale of buff dudes, shapely babes, standoffs, showdowns, gunfights, fistfights and – let’s not forget – car chases isn’t going to be for everyone.

But in the last few fast, furious flicks, those involved seem to have struck a crowd-pleasing balance of fast-paced, hard-hitting action and good-natured ridiculousness.

And that reaches an apex in Fast Five, which takes the series in a fun new direction, transforming it from a street-racing saga to a high-octane Ocean’s Eleven.

This meeting of the He-Man Women's Haters Club is hereby called to order

The action picks up where the previous instalment left off, with the prison-bound Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) busted loose by ex-cop Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and Dominic’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster).

High-tailing it to Rio de Janeiro, the crims pull a risky heist that involves stealing sports cars from a moving train. Gosh, how could that possibly go wrong?

When Dom, Brian and Mia are double-crossed by their partners, resulting in the deaths of a few DEA agents, they end up pursued by Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), a hard-core lawman with an “Old Testament” moral code and the physique of a minotaur.

This movie just took a turn for the URST (look it up)

Realising the only way out is to get enough cash to make themselves scarce for good, the crew decides to rob Reyes (Joaquin de Almeida), the crime boss behind the double-cross, of his ill-gotten $100 million fortune.

But even the likes of Vin Diesel and Paul Walker can’t do something like this alone, so they assemble a team made up of cast members from the previous Fast and the Furious films – Matt Schulze from the first, Tyrese Gibson from the second, Sung Kang from the third and Gal Gadot from the fourth.

While Fast Five seems intent on refashioning the franchise as the adventures of a groovy gang of thieves, the movie hasn’t forgotten why the punters show up for these movies.

And director Justin Lin (who helmed the previous two Fast and the Furious movies) keeps things…well, fast and furious, whether the chases are on foot through Rio’s shantytowns or in high-end cars on the city’s highways.

Of course, the drama, dialogue and characterisation is all big, broad and larger than life but it’s done with a winning combination of just enough sincerity and just enough understanding of its own outlandishness.

I mean, this is a movie where musclebound bruisers Diesel and Johnson get into a no-holds-barred brawl that sees them literally smashing through walls. You definitely can’t accuse Fast Five of not giving the fans what they want.


THOR interview: Chris Hemsworth

May 2, 2011

If the following words aren’t giving you the entire Hemsworth experience, may I recommend you visit The Vine for a few minutes of video interview with the man himself. You won’t regret it!

It’s a fairly sizeable suite in a swanky Melbourne hotel, but when Chris Hemsworth walks in my first impression is that this room ain’t big enough for the both of us. Sure, the Australian actor has stripped away some of the 10 or so kilos of muscle he strapped on to play Thor, the Norse god of thunder, in the big-budget comic-book adaptation of the same name but he remains a tall, broad and kinda intimidating presence nevertheless.

Happily, that presence is offset by a friendly manner and easygoing charm that is just apparent off-screen as it is in his performance as Thor, the charismatic, headstrong prince of Asgard whose hot temper and flair for warfare sees him reignite an old feud with an ancient enemy and subsequently banished to Earth by his imperious father, Odin (played by the imperious Anthony Hopkins).

Stripped of his powers – and his weapon of choice, the badass hammer Mjolnir – Thor must learn humility if he is to become the ruler Asgard needs. And the stakes are raised even higher when his cunning brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) makes a play for the mythical kingdom’s throne.

Best known for his role as Kim Hyde on the long-running Seven soapie Home and Away prior to taking a crack at Hollywood, Hemsworth slowly rose through the ranks with supporting roles (such as his brief but memorable turn as Captain Kirk’s doomed dad in the opening scene of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek) before getting a shot at playing the Marvel Comics superhero for director Kenneth Branagh.

But the role of Thor was a much sought-after one, and Hemsworth admits that he nearly stymied his chances in the early stages. “I’d always loved Viking mythology and its sense of adventure, and early on I had that feeling of ‘Yeah, I understand this’,” he says. “But I actually had a few bad auditions at the beginning, so I guess I was wrong! By the time I came back in for the final audition, I’d read some of the comics and discussed things with Ken. But it wasn’t until I got on the set for that audition and put the costume on that it really felt like ‘Yeah, this is good. Now I feel like it, now I can do it’.”

The process of landing the role actually became a bit of a family affair for Hemsworth. His younger brother Liam was vying for the part early on but was ruled out, and the two brothers would discuss what Branagh might be looking for in a portrayal of Thor. “When Liam was no longer in the mix, I got another phone call for an audition,” says Hemsworth. “And my mum was actually visiting me at the time, so she held the camera for my audition and read Anthony Hopkins’ lines!”

Not Chris Hemsworth's mum

Working with Branagh, the actor and filmmaker best known for robust Shakespeare adaptations like Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing, Hemsworth was given a crash course in the history of Thor – both from the Marvel Comics adventures released since the early ‘60s and the Norse mythology from considerably before that – as well as an unofficial curriculum that the director might offer some insight into the character.

“Ken gave me The Art of War, the Hermann Hesse book Siddhartha and various others,” Hemsworth recalls. “He said it wasn’t a test or anything but if I wanted to read them, well, great. And I did find them useful, even just on a personal level. I mean, Siddhartha is a very philosophical journey, a man asking big questions and trying to find his place in the world and the meaning of it all. And while it’s under different circumstances, Thor undertakes a similar journey, one that teaches him humility and shapes who he is.”

In the end, however, Hemsworth’s biggest task was making the story seem real, even when it involves a hammer-wielding Norse thunder god cast out of his magical kingdom. “There’s this fatalistic attitude in Norse mythology – everything was pre-ordained for them so there was no fear about doing anything,” he says. “That influenced a lot of my performance as Thor but really I was just looking for the truth in the scenes and making it relatable. The costumes tell us something, the sets tell us another thing, the attitudes displayed by the other actors tell us something more – from there, it became a matter of ‘Well, it’s a scene between a father and son’ or ‘It’s a confrontation between two brothers’, so you find your motivation and you make it real.”

It was made easier, he says, by the presence of collaborators like Branagh, Hopkins and Natalie Portman, who plays Jane Foster, the astrophysicist who discovers Thor when he literally falls to Earth in the New Mexico desert.

“From Ken, it was all about learning the truth of things, not just playing a role,” he says. “You’re simplifying things, really, humanising this god and making him relatable. And also challenging your own interpretations and sending your performance in different directions. I picked up on Hopkins’ enthusiasm and appreciation for the whole process. 112 films on and he’s still saying ‘How much fun is this? Isn’t Ken wonderful?’ And Natalie is as sweet and wonderful as you’d imagine – very collaborative, very funny and plenty of integrity about what she wanted to do with the character. It just elevated the whole process.”

She blinded me with Science

Having signed a six-picture deal, Hemsworth is well and truly in the Thor business now – he’ll reprise his role opposite Robert Downey, Jr (as Iron Man), Mark Ruffalo (as the Hulk) and Chris Evans (as Captain America) in the upcoming superhero-ensemble adventure The Avengers, which begins filming in a few weeks under director Joss Whedon. “Working with those guys is just hugely exciting,” he says.