[Movie Review] The Dish

The DishStarring: Sam Neill, Kevin Harrington, Tom Long, Patrick Warburton, Roy Billing
Director: Rob Sitch
Genre: Comedy
Cert: 12
Released: 2000

I seem to have an attraction this week to 1960s US government-based stories being dramatised on celluloid. Following my review elsewhere on the site of “Thirteen Days”, we now take a peak into the unlikely story of a small rural town in Australia which gained noteriety for beaming the pictures of Neil Armstrong on the moon in 1969.

When NASA come knocking, Mayor Bob McIntyre (Billing) is proud to announce that the world’s most capable satellite dish, located in his Australian district of Parkes, will be relied upon to beam pictures of the future moonwalk around the world. The momentous task of making everything go smoothly falls to the dish site-manager, Cliff Buxton (Neill – “Jurassic Park”, “The Piano”, “In the Mouth of Madness”), crabby technician Mitch (Harrington) and timid mathematical scientist, Glenn (Long). Looking over their shoulder is thorough NASA representative, Al (Warburton – “Scream 3”, TVs “Seinfeld”), and his attention to detail is met with resistance by Mitch.

Simmering in the background, are the personal relationships that only serve as mild distractions from the main story. Nervous Glenn can’t see that pretty local girl Janine (Eliza Szonert – played Danni in Aussie soap “Neighbours”) is waiting to be asked out as they play a familiar game of ‘you make the first move’. Meanwhile, Cliff’s pensive mention of his wife alludes to a deeper story while Mitch and Al pursue a heated battle for control and influence.

When technical problems, both man-made and caused by forces of nature, are poised to destabilise the project, it becomes clear that to the folks in Parkes the actual moonwalk takes a backseat in importance to the town’s ability to show it to the world. This lends an amiable charm to a weighty moment in mankind’s history, showing us that behind the unfathomable science involved in space travel, is something a little more human and down to earth.
We take this moon walk seriously you know!

The danger in regional comedies like this is that some characters will be presented with a far more pronounced stereotype than is required, leading the viewer to feel little sytmpathy and maybe general apathy to certain parts of the plot. That is not the case in “The Dish”, with even the excitable Mayor McIntyre coming across as an honest and hard-working man who is fully deserving of his day in the sun. Neill plays Cliff Buxton wonderfully. Never imagining himself being part of something as large as this, Cliff takes it in his stride until the moment he realises that it might all be going wrong. He then realises that the whole undertaking is actually more important to him than he thought.

Melbourne-born Sitch directs as you might expect – a man comfortable in his surroundings, and familiar with the materials at his disposal. The script is light but entertaining, and although some angles are over-played (check out the dish security guard, Rudi, who acts like he is in the CIA), the strong mixture of humour and character make this a worthwhile watch.



[Album Review] "The World Needs a Hero" – Megadeth

The World Needs a Hero - MegadethAlbum Title: The World Needs a Hero
Artist: Megadeth
Year: 2001
Running Time: 57m 54s

Track listing: 1 Disconnect; 2 The World Needs a Hero; 3 Moto Psycho; 4 1000 Times Goodbye; 5 Burning Bridges; 6 Promises; 7 Recipe For Hate…Warhorse; 8 Losing My Senses; 9 Dread and the Fugitive Mind; 10 Silent Scorn; 11 Return to Hangar; 12 When

I was introduced to heavy metal in the late eighties by Metallica and Megadeth. It is a testament (no pun intended) to these bands that in the 21st century, they are still going extremely strong.  In recent years both bands have attracted immense criticism from long-time fans who have seen them trail away from metal path and more down a “pop-metal” avenue.  It differed from the hard-rock scene of Whitesnake, Aerosmith and Motley Crue as it still carried a certain amount of menace behind the more melodic riffs but was still unacceptable to headbangers around the world.

Megadeth for their part scored big with the metal classic “Rust in Peace” (1990), and followed it up with the hugely successful “Countdown to Extinction” (1992).  But they veered away from pure metal for their 1994 release, “Youthanasia”, which featured a marvellous, but out-of-character ballad, called ‘A Tout Le Monde’.  After the decent “Cryptic Writings” (1997), 1999 release “Risk” was hammered by most fans for it’s pop style despite the fact it contained numerous quality cuts.

Popular lead guitarist, Marty Friedman, left the band in early 2000 and lead singer Dave Mustaine promised a return to the days of old on their next album. Consisting of bass player and other original member, David Ellefson, drummer Jimmy DeGrasso and Marty’s replacement, Al Pitrelli, Megadeth dragged their metal carcass kicking and screaming into 2001, the trust of thousands of fans there to be recaptured.

It only takes seconds to realise that the band have returned to the more rigorous metal style of yore.  Opening number ‘Disconnect’ is heavy but devoid of a good hook.  Mustaine spares a few minutes for those who don’t fit in (turn off your conscience/leave the world outside/nothing at all can ever make you feel/that anything’s real so you just … disconnect) but the song is saved only by Al Pitrelli’s spunky solo. In fact for the first time in ages, a Megadeth album is worth listening to primarily for the solos rather than the songs.

The title track is a total disappointment – an intermittent ‘Sweating Bullets’-style riff and thumping drum beat lead this mediocre tune into the slightly better ‘Moto Psycho’, but at this point ideas still seem thin on the ground. It improves slightly with ‘Burning Bridges’, something that would have fitted in nicely on “Countdown to Extinction”.

But arguably, the cut of the album is the sombre ‘1000 Times Goodbye’. Dave’s woman is a total bitch – she’s met someone else you see, and over the metal furore, their phone conversation carries out as we hear her explain why she is leaving. You could be forgiven for humming Metallica’s ‘No Remorse’ as the main riff bears more than a passing resemblance to the 1983 classic. The song is probably worth it alone to hear Dave respond to his ex’s excuses with the line: ‘you know what…YOU SUCK!’. Brilliant.

In ‘Recipe for Hate…Warhorse’, Dave grunts his way through the classically-structured track – a song that recalls the spirit of “Rust in Peace” – ‘each day my shortcomings pick my pockets/my faults were letters carved in stone’ crows Mustaine in the albums best Biblical reference! The second half of the track, ‘…Warhorse’, is exceptional. Fast and obnoxious, packed with solos and agression, it really is classic Megadeth. Pity the album does not have more of this on it.

The 9 minute album closer, ‘When’, is also worthy of the band’s heavier days. A bitter tale of revenge, Dave recites an opening monologue about someone who has done him wrong (i trusted you and i loved you/and you spit back in my face/how could you do this to me/when will you stop trying to hurt me?) before pronouncing that payback is coming (when no words are spoken and pleas are ignored/your tears go unnoticed, will you say enough?). The slightly distored vocals manage to make this sound like it was lifted from “Killing is My Business…”. And that’s good enough for me.

Emotive ballad, ‘Promises’, somehow fits in nicely here despite the Beatles-esque string arrangment that accompanies it. And here it is – the much anticipated ‘Return to Hangar’ – a sequel to the Megadeth classic, ‘Hangar 18’. Thankfully it is superbly executed with vocals, lyrics and solos that recall, but respect, the original – (all the guilty paid the price/suspended by their broken necks/no one survived to tell the story/when foreign life forms ressurect). Even the classic ‘military intelligence’ lyric returns, and it doesn’t sound desperate!

The problem with this album though is that amongst the throngs of mediocrity, the few diamonds are surrounded by some coarse rocks like probable “Risk” left-over (and inferior to just about every song on “Risk”) ‘Losing my Senses’, the unimaginative ‘Dread and the Fugitive Mind’ and dull, trumpet-tinged instrumental ‘Silent Scorn’.

Part of me thinks that Megadeth returned to practically full blown metal without really being ready – almost like they ‘did metal’ for the sake of it. This is simply not as good an album as “Risk”, an album castigated for it’s more ‘pop’ approach, and certainly not as good as “Rust in Peace” or “Countdown to Extinction”, the two albums it has been most compared to. It’s just about worth buying for the few high quality tunes, but it’s inconsistent and disappointing frankly.