Wednesday, 31 December 2014

NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Two new movie releases this week and the first for this year!

TOP PICK


Top pick this week is most definitely THE IMITATION GAME. You can read my review here.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


THE PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR tells the story of Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private who join forces with undercover organization The North Wind to stop the villainous Dr. Octavius Brine from destroying the world as we know it. PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR has high appeal for the general public, but critics are not quite so happy. For The Hollywood Reporter's Michael Rechtshaffen, While there are plenty of madcap antics to fill a feature, all that manic energy ultimately proves to be more exhausting than exhilarating.

That’s it for this week. See you at the movies!

* Movie synopses are based on/adapted from IMDB. Opinions are mine except where references are provided.

ST VINCENT

A young boy whose parents have just divorced finds an unlikely friend and mentor in the misanthropic, bawdy, hedonistic war veteran who lives next door. -- IMDB

What a delightful surprise this little movie is. Bill Murray (Vincent) is all Bill Murray - but he plays Bill Murray well and is a joy to watch. Melissa McCarthy's (Maggie) usual over-the-top performance is toned down to a beautifully understated role and shows she has great potential as an actor. Naomi Watts (Daka) clearly has fun with her “lady of the night” role. And newcomer, Jaeden Lieberher, is winsome as Oliver. The story is simple and full of positive values. It’s funny, heart-warming, with genuine humour. I really enjoyed it.


Monday, 29 December 2014

BIG HERO 6

The special bond that develops between plus-sized inflatable robot Baymax, and prodigy Hiro Hamada, who team up with a group of friends to form a band of high-tech heroes. —IMDB

An ok animated feature. Baymax is cute and it is always amazing how animators can make very basic characters express so much depth. The animation is well executed but the plot is pretty standard and, while there are some important issues raised about the relationship between technology and humans, it’s all a bit ho-hum. And there’s lots of violence for a primarily kids film. In my opinion, it’s about time studios started moving away from the superhero genre and becoming creative with their storytelling.


Saturday, 27 December 2014

THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES

Bilbo and Company are forced to engage in a war against an array of combatants and keep the Lonely Mountain from falling into the hands of a rising darkness. IMDB

Well I enjoyed this episode more than any of the others. It was well paced with lots of actions and represented a suitable climax to the series. At times, the CGI wasnt quite right (some of the close combat scenes didnt seem real) but, overall, Peter Jackson shows off the amazing technology that allows us to immerse ourselves in fantasy worlds that would not have been possible just a few years ago. This episode really focuses in on the personal relationships between characters and the heroic loyalty they demonstrate - even if it means dying for friendships. This will definitely satisfy fans of the series.


THE WATER DIVINER

An Australian man travels to Turkey after the Battle of Gallipoli to try and locate his three missing sons. —IMDB

Russell Crowes directorial debut is a solid drama that is, apparently, inspired" by a true story. Its rough around the edges with a couple of serious flaws. Casting Dan Wyllie as Captain Charles Brindley is a very bad choice. Wyllie overacts and gives us a caricatured English accent that just doesnt work. Every time he is on screen, he distracts from the authentic feel of the script. And, for me, the way in which the main character, Connor (played well be Russell Crowe), finds his three sons (using a method subtly connected to water divining) is totally unbelievable and contrived. Apart from that, its an entertaining drama that celebrates the sacrifices of those who are deeply affected by war. Of particular note is Yilmaz Erdogan who puts in an excellent performance as Major Hasan. Supporting cast (except for Wyllie) are strong. All in all, a worthy first director outing for Crowe and a mostly satisfying watch.


MR TURNER

An exploration of the last quarter century of the great, if eccentric, British painter J.M.W. Turner's life. —IMDB

I can understand why critics are giving this movie very high scores - high production values, good acting, nice photography. But, for me, MR TURNER was an absolutely boring 2 hours and 30 minutes. Watching a very unpleasant character communicating by grunting and growling like a pig wallowing in mud, treating women as objects for his own pleasure, spitting on canvases - Mr Turner was repulsive man. My advice is to admire his paintings and know as little as possible about the man. Watching this movie puts you at risk of forever contaminating your admiration for his work.


Wednesday, 24 December 2014

HORRIBLE BOSSES 2

Dale, Kurt and Nick decide to start their own business but things don't go as planned because of a slick investor, prompting the trio to pull off a harebrained and misguided kidnapping scheme. --IMDB

A truly horrible movie. It's puerile, pathetic, offensive (rape jokes are not funny), and all round unfunny (apart from one or two moments). How usually good actors could agree to act in something like this is truly beyond me. With so many good movies to see at the moment, there's absolutely no reason to waste your time on this.



 

 

 

 

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

LOVE, ROSIE

Rosie and Alex have been best friends since they were 5, so they couldn't possibly be right for one another...or could they? When it comes to love, life and making the right choices, these two are their own worst enemies. — IMDB

Heres one for all you romantics. A very enjoyable movie. Cliched but fresh (does that make sense?). The two main actors have good chemistry and are just flawed enough to make their performances and the story believable. Lily Collins (The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones) is particularly outstanding. I was pleasantly surprised with this movie and would be happy to see it again. So, if you're looking for something easy to watch, pleasantly enjoyable, and romantic, you'd better head to the cinema!











Thursday, 18 December 2014

THE IMITATION GAME

English mathematician and logician, Alan Turing, helps crack the Enigma code during World War II. — IMDB

THE IMITATION GAME opens on 1 January 2015 - but I got to see it at a prescreening. Its an excellent true story with Benedict Cumberbatch (Alan Turing) putting in what may be his best performance ever. Cumberbatch dominates the entire narrative in his portrayal of the brilliant man who, with Sherlockian logic and profound eccentricity, manages to break the Enigma code allowing full access to the enemys war plans. The film always provides an insight into the cultural mores of the time around sexuality and gender. Its both an inspiring and tragic story - even if, ultimately, it doesnt quite have the impact one would expect of such a story. It is definitely worth seeing and I have been inspired to follow up by reading the biography of the genius, Alan Turing, on which the film is based.


NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - PREDESTINATION


The life of a time-traveling Temporal Agent. On his final assignment, he must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time. — IMDB

PREDESTINATION is excellent! There have been lots of time travel movies made - and this one adds a brand new layer of complexity and intrigue to the genre. Sarah Snook (Not Suitable for Children) is brilliant - as always - in a breakout performance. Add Ethan Hawke  as co-star and the cast is great. The movie is very dialogue-driven, cerebral, and intellectually engaging. This one's for those viewers who want something to think about rather than just special effects and action. The first 1/3 was a touch slow, but necessary in the context of the whole narrative arc. Try to see it without knowing anything much about it... One of the best sci-fi movies this year!


NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Clearly, cinemas are holding on to their new releases for Boxing Day. There is just one new release and it is ...


ONE TO AVOID


This third movie adaptation of ANNIE is a real bummer according to those who have seen it so far. You probably know the story. A foster kid, who lives with her mean foster mom, sees her life change when business tycoon and New York mayoral candidate Will Stacks makes a thinly-veiled campaign move and takes her in. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the consensus is, The new-look Annie hints at a progressive take on a well-worn story, but smothers its likable cast under clich├ęs, cloying cuteness, and a distasteful materialism. Give it a miss!

That’s it for this week. See you at the movies!

* Movie synopses are based on/adapted from IMDB. Opinions are mine except where references are provided.

Friday, 12 December 2014

PADDINGTON

A young English boy befriends a talking bear he finds at a London train station. A live-action feature based on the series of popular children's books by Michael Bond. — IMDB

Moving popular children’s characters to the screen is always risky. And some of them have been downright distasteful. But PADDINGTON is excellent. The best family film this year (and maybe next). An absolute delight with surprisingly clever visual innovations, a great cast, and an excellent backstory. The animation of PADDINGTON is brilliant - just how I imagined him to look. And the casting of Ben Wishaw as the voice of Paddington is spot on. Even Nicole Kidman puts in a good turn as the nasty taxidermist who wants to stuff Paddington - it would have been good to have her character more central to the story. Thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining. Simple, charming, and full of fun. Make sure you see it - and take the whole family!





Thursday, 11 December 2014

NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - THESE FINAL HOURS

THESE FINAL HOURS - A self-obsessed young man makes his way to the party-to-end-all-parties on the last day on Earth, but ends up saving the life of a little girl searching for her father. Their relationship ultimately leads him on the path to redemption. — IMDB

One of the best end-of-the-world movies I've ever seen! It packs a real emotional punch. I saw it at the Adelaide Film Festival and there was complete silence as the credits started to roll. What makes this new Australian movie so good is its focus on real people and how they might choose to use their last remaining hours alive. We see these final events through the eyes of an adult and a child (played by Nathan Philips and brilliant newcomer child-actor Angourie Rice). It's a deeply humanising script that stares in the face of finality without flinching. The movie is painted on a large apocalyptic canvas that recedes into the background as our attention is focused where it should be - on real people and their relationships. The movie grapples with universal issues of life and death, love, meaning and what we value when everything is about to cease existing. Very thought-provoking and emotionally moving. Make sure you see!


NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Very slim pickings as far as new movies go this week.

TOP PICK


Top of the list is, of course PADDINGTON! A young English boy befriends a talking bear he finds at a London train station. A live-action feature based on the series of popular children's books by Michael Bond. Who wouldn’t want to see this! Even more so if CineVue's Joe Walsh is correct. According to him, PADDINGTON is Devoid of cash-in cynicism, and full of belly-shaking humour[.] Paddington proves to be not just a wonderful contemporary rendition of the bear, but a polite hat-tip to the man who created him, paying homage in the best way possible: by bringing a gentle, slightly reserved, smile to audience faces. Who’s going to go see it?

OTHERS TO SEE


In the French comedy, PARIS FOLLIES, Brigitte and Xavier are a couple of cattle farmers living and working together in Normandy. They have always got on well but now that their two children have left the household routine and weariness have set in. One night, Brigitte, who has been invited to a party by a group of Parisians in the house next to their farm, lets herself be wooed by Stan, a witty, cool attractive young man. Some time later, giving a visit to a dermatologist as an excuse, she goes to Paris to meet him. But things do not go according to plan… - Written by Guy Bellinger

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


Finally, one that general viewers and critics disagree on - HORRIBLE BOSSES 2. Dale, Kurt and Nick decide to start their own business but things don't go as planned because of a slick investor, prompting the trio to pull off a harebrained and misguided kidnapping scheme. According to Variety's Justin Chang, This inane and incredibly tasteless sequel qualifies as an excuse to bring back those hard-working funnymen Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis for another round of amateur-criminal hijinks and semi-improvised vulgarity, jabbing away repeatedly at some elusive comic sweet spot where blatant nastiness and egregious stupidity collide - and very occasionally hitting the mark. Wow! I guess this critic didn’t like it! I’ve heard from some who have seen it, that it is better than the first one. We’ll have to see...

That’s it for this week. See you at the movies!

* Movie synopses are based on/adapted from IMDB. Opinions are mine except where references are provided.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

TURKEY SHOOT

 In the wake of a shocking civilian massacre in a foreign war zone, disgraced Navy SEAL Rick Tyler is sentenced to rot in a maximum security military prison until he is offered the opportunity to put his life on the line to win his freedom. A one-man force of nature, Tyler will have to take-on and take-down some of the world's most ruthless killers in some of the world's most brutal locations to win the game, obtain his freedom and find out why he was set up. The question is, can he accomplish all of this before Game On is Game Over? -- IMDB

This is a turkey of a movie. The sound track (including dialogue) is out of sync with the visuals, acting is low quality, the story has potential but is ultimately superficial. The whole thing is pretty bad. Give it a miss.


Monday, 8 December 2014

ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY

Alexander's day begins with gum stuck in his hair, followed by more calamities. Though he finds little sympathy from his family and begins to wonder if bad things only happen to him, his mom, dad, brother, and sister all find themselves living through their own terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. -- IMDB

Despite the critics being down on this little movie, I quite enjoyed it. It's a great family film - and devoid of sex, farts, and other gutter human often found in much comedy nowadays. (There is a bit of rude humour including some reckless behaviour and language.) Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner, as husband and wife, make a great pair. The kids put in some solid supporting roles. And there's a good message. The similarity to the movie LIAR LIAR has been noted, but the differences are great enough for me to not make that connection myself. I recommend this for a family outing.


Sunday, 7 December 2014

EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS


The defiant leader Moses rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses, setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues. -- IMDB

Perhaps the most disappointing film of the year. For an accomplished director, Ridley Scott has produced a real lemon. Apart from the special effects, just about everything is wrong. The casting doesn't work. It's as if it's a high school production where everyone has to have a part. There's plenty of well known actors but the casting decisions grate on the nerves. It just doesn't work. The worst decision is the casting of a precocious child to play the part of the Hebrew god. Really?! And it's boring! There is a complete absence of any dramatic tension. The original Hebrew legend is shot through with drama, spiritual significance, human frailty, political intrigue and confrontation. Most of this is missing and what is there is bland and insignificant. For example, the original story has Moses confronting the Egyptian magicians in repeated tests to prove who has the strongest god. Is that in the movie? Nope. The original has Moses with a stutter that prohibits him from having confidence in his ability to confront Pharaoh. In the movie? No. Each of the plagues are the result of confrontations between Moses and Pharaoh. In the movie? Nope. We have a purely naturalistic, logical development which, in the original legend, was a potent retribution from a god who was furious with the way his people were being treated. All in all, this movie is a pathetic retelling of a famous Hebrew legend in which Jewish identity is grounded. I really appreciate the retelling of stories such as this which push the boundaries, are controversial, and force us to think. But this? It’s nowhere near as good as the original story. Don’t waste your money.


Friday, 5 December 2014

NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION

LUCY has arrived in your home! A woman is accidentally caught in a dark deal, turns the tables on her captors and transforms into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic.

Love this movie! Scarlett Johansson is perfectly cast in this full-on action, sci-fi thriller. Great premise and fits a lot into 90 minutes! A few plot holes but who cares when the entertainment is so deliriously good. From the opening scene, Johansson dominates the screen - this is her movie. Gets pretty bizarre at the end but it's riveting stuff. It's even funny at times so it doesn't take itself too seriously. You'll only need 3-5% of your brain to enjoy this - so go for the ride!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

MY OLD LADY

An American inherits an apartment in Paris that comes with an unexpected resident.
MY OLD LADY is billed as a comedy drama. It is more drama than comedy. And what comedy there is, is dark. It starts of very pleasantly, set in Paris, and we think we're in for a lighthearted fast paced amusing story. But it's not long before it turns to some very serious themes: unresolved grief, parent-child relationships, ageing, self-esteem. The director is the author of the stage play on which it is based, and wrote the screenplay for the movie. At times, the dialogue comes across as a bit stagey and we know the actors are “acting”. But fortunately, these big name cast act well enough to make the journey ok.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

NIGHTCRAWLER

NIGHTCRAWLER is a thriller set in the nocturnal underbelly of contemporary Los Angeles.Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Lou Bloom, a driven young man desperate for work who discovers the high-speed world of L.A. crime journalism. Finding a group of freelance camera crews who film crashes, fires, murder and other mayhem, Lou muscles into the cut-throat, dangerous realm of nightcrawling - where each police siren wail equals a possible windfall and victims are converted into dollars and cents. Aided by Rene Russo as Nina, a veteran of the blood-sport that is local TV news, Lou blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story. — Written by Open Road Films

A very dark and serious thriller satire about the way TV news pursues ratings rather than accuracy in its broadcasts. Jake Gyllenhaal is sensational and rivetingly creepy in his role as Lou Bloom. The script and plot are fresh and engaging. As the story progresses the tension builds. Fortunately, the “message” of the movie stays in the background and doesn’t overwhelm the clever story which is genuinely entertaining. It’s a must see movie despite its very minor flaws.

****

Friday, 28 November 2014

NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Who's ready for a movie? Lots of new movies this week - so many, in fact, it's going to take me a week to tell you about them all! (Just joking)

TOP PICK


Top movie to go and see this week is NIGHTCRAWLER in which Lou Bloom, a driven man desperate for work, muscles into the world of L.A. crime journalism, and blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story. Aiding him in his effort is Nina, a TV-news veteran. It's an excellent movie which makes a satirical comment on the way news media has lost its way, focusing on ratings rather than providing society with good quality news. I'll post my review shortly. In the meantime, I agree with Total Film’s Jamie Graham who says [Jake]
Gyllenhaal is sensational headlining a pitch-black satire with its finger on the pulse. Go see it!

OTHERS TO SEE


Lots of others to see...

First up, THE IMITATION GAME starring Benedict Cumberpatch and Keira Knightley. It tells the true story of English mathematician and logician, Alan Turing, who helped crack the Enigma code during World War II. There's a wide range of opinions from critics. indieWIRE describes it as
... a reserved, almost conservative performance, and in holding so much back so much of the time, Cumberbatch makes his few outward displays of emotion far more impactful.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


There's quite a few movies in this category this week. First is PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR. In this spinoff from the Madagascar movies, Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private join forces with undercover organization The North Wind to stop the villainous Dr. Octavius Brine from destroying the world as we know it. The general public is rating it as average but most critics are not quite that favourable to it. The Hollywood Reporter's Michael Rechtshaffen says that, While there are plenty of madcap antics to fill a feature, all that manic energy ultimately proves to be more exhausting than exhilarating.

Next up, JIMMY'S HALL, which was part of the recent British Film Festival (BFF) here in Australia and is now being released more widely. It tells the stor of political activist Jimmy Gralton is deported from Ireland during the country's 'Red Scare' of the 1930s. I didn't mind this one when I saw it at the BFF and will post a review soon. The Hollywood Reporter’s Neil Young didn't think much of it. For him, For the first time his ongoing collaboration with scriptwriter Paul Laverty, Loach's studiously safe-hands approach -- typified by regular collaborator George Fenton's near-incessant score -- can't counterbalance fundamental screenplay flaws.

Next up: MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN attempts to tackle the contemporary issues presented by the Internet. A group of high school teenagers and their parents attempt to navigate the many ways the Internet has changed their relationships, their communication, their self-image, and their love lives. While the general population think this is average fare, Time Out New York’s Joshua Rothkopf thinks this is The first Reitman film to make the 36-year-old director seem about 400 years old. Hmmm... Doesn't sound promising.

The rather lengthily titled ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY provides some comic/family relief. Alexander's day begins with gum stuck in his hair, followed by more calamities. Though he finds little sympathy from his family and begins to wonder if bad things only happen to him, his mom, dad, brother, and sister all find themselves living through their own terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. May have had potential but The Dissolve’s Keith Phipps warns us that It's a painfully minor movie that doubles as an accidental study in how pros handle themselves when given less-than-challenging material.

ONE TO AVOID


You would think that a movie with Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper would have to be good, right? Sadly, SERENA is nowhere near what we'd expect from these two actors. The story seems promising: In Depression-era North Carolina, the future of George Pemberton's timber empire becomes complicated when it is learned that his wife, Serena, cannot bear children. According to Time Out London’s Cath Clarke We don't invest anything in either character, and with barely any tension, Serena grabs neither head nor heart. Give it a miss.

That’s it for this week. See you at the movies!

* Movie synopses are based on/adapted from IMDB. Opinions are mine except where references are provided.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

THE DARK HORSE

The Dark Horse is an emotionally-charged and inspiring drama about a man who searches for the courage to lead, despite his own adversities - finding purpose and hope in passing on his gift to the children in his community.

A very moving, genuinely inspiring story. Chris Curtis (who put on just over 27 kg to play the role of Genesis) puts in an amazing authentic performance as the NZ chess champion who is troubled by mental illness on the fringe of society, but finds a way to lead a group of young kids to New Zealand’s national chess championship, turning their lives around. The chess club he started is still in operation today and many, many children have been given hope for their futures through as a result of this true hero’s selfless commitment. Sadly, Genesis is no longer with us - but he has made a lasting impact. THE DARK HORSE is a mature movie, directed with confidence, and with a brilliant supporting cast. Don’t miss this superb movie, either in the cinemas or later when it is released on DVD.


Friday, 21 November 2014

THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY - PART 1

When Katniss destroys the games, she goes to District 13 after District 12 is destroyed. She meets President Coin who convinces her to be the symbol of rebellion, while trying to save Peeta from the Capitol. —IMDB

The mistake this episode makes is trying to spread the last book of the series into two parts - suspiciously like trying to extract as much money from fans as they can. MOCKINGJAY Part 1 plods along for most of the movie with little substance and becomes bogged down with repetition (scene after scene has a helicopter taking off and landing - and Katniss does a lot of crying). Katniss’s character is quite weakly represented in this movie, which is disappointing given the strength she has shown in previous episodes. There are intense moments and its actors do a great job with Jennifer Lawrence, despite the insipid script, remains charismatic. But it’s essentially pretty boring. Of course, those of us who have loved the series so far (and I’m one of them) have to see this episode for completeness. So go see it, but don’t expect too much.

NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - THE BABADOOK

If you are looking for something different to watch this weekend and don’t mind a bit of psychological tension, check out THE BABADOOK. A single mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son's fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her.

Brilliant movie. A dark exploration of grief, guilt, and parenting with an intelligent script that taps into our childhood fear of monsters in the dark. Essie Davis, who plays Amelia, the mother of Samuel (Noah Wiseman) is excellent as she descends into her nightmare. Noah Wiseman is astounding as the son who starts to "see” monsters in the house after his mother reads him the story of The Babadook. The tension increases inexorably but never goes too far. The director (Jennifer Kent, who also wrote the script), never succumbs to the temptation to merely cause the viewer to jump by using cheap tricks. Instead, the character and story development is what's most important. The same goes for any special effects - they're subtle and effective - what we can't see is often more frightening than what we can. The story is original and complex and provides rich material for reflecting on what people go through when they feel responsible for bad things happening to those they love. THE BABADOOK is a clever, riveting, disturbing movie - and highly recommended if you like intelligent psychological thrillers.

****1/2

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

WINTER SLEEP

Aydin, a former actor, runs a small hotel in central Anatolia with his young wife Nihal with whom he has a stormy relationship and his sister Necla who is suffering from her recent divorce. In winter as the snow begins to fall, the hotel turns into a shelter but also an inescapable place that fuels their animosities... —IMDB

Very slow - and runs for 3 hours 16 minutes! Mostly dialogue with the occasional increase in tension but consists primarily of people sitting drinking tea or wine and conversing. In my opinion, an hour or so could have been discarded. The best part is the last half hour when things pick up a bit. It’s a beautiful movie in many ways, but the pace and length will put most people off.

***

Saturday, 15 November 2014

LET’S BE COPS

Two struggling pals dress as police officers for a costume party and become neighborhood sensations. But when these newly-minted "heroes" get tangled in a real life web of mobsters and dirty detectives, they must put their fake badges on the line. —IMDB

This has to be the worst movie I’ve seen for a very long time. It is so bad, I couldn’t last more than about 20 minutes. The acting is week, the humour is not funny - it was totally boring. The sad thing is that the premise of this movie could have provided a very funny movie. But the writers clearly had no idea how to do that. There are lots of gags, but they fall flat. Give this one a miss!

*

THE DROP

Bob Saginowski finds himself at the center of a robbery gone awry and entwined in an investigation that digs deep into the neighborhood's past where friends, families, and foes all work together to make a living - no matter the cost. —IMDB

Slow burning thriller with some excellent performances, particularly from Tom Hardy. The dialogue is very good and the story and characters are highly engaging. One of the best things about THE DROP is its fresh story that mostly avoided cliche. The subtle development of the central narrative builds an uneasy sense of dread - you just know this is not going to go well. THE DROP is from the same writer who brought us Mystic River and Gone, Baby Gone. Sadly, James Gandolfini, who also puts in an excellent performance, is no longer with us. Noomi Rapace is, perhaps, the weakest part of the movie who never really develops her character with much depth. Overall, this is an excellent movie.

****1/2

Friday, 14 November 2014

NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2


Set in the mythical world of burly Vikings and wild dragons, and based on the book by Cressida Cowell, the action comedy tells the story of Hiccup, a Viking teenager who doesn't exactly fit in with his tribe's longstanding tradition of heroic dragon slayers. Hiccup's world is turned upside down when he encounters a dragon that challenges him and his fellow Vikings to see the world from an entirely different point of view. - FLIXTER

A delightful sequel. The best things about the movie are the amazing animation - the superb detail, the rich colours - the relationships between the humans and animals. The story is not as rich or complex as the first movie but there is lots of action. The dragons are beautiful and quirky and look great. If you liked the first How to Train Your Dragon, you will definitely like this one. So will the kids!

THIS WEEK'S MEW CINEMA RELEASES

Four new movies to think about seeing this week.

TOP PICK


Top of the list this week is a Turkish drama that was the winner of the Palme D'or (Best Film) at Cannes this year. In WINTER SLEEP Aydin, a former actor, runs a small hotel in central Anatolia with his young wife Nihal with whom he has a stormy relationship and his sister Necla who is suffering from her recent divorce. In winter as the snow begins to fall, the hotel turns into a shelter but also an inescapable place that fuels their animosities... (Written by Cannes Film Festival). It’s very, very long at 196 minutes. But it looks like a worthwhile movie to see if The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin is right when he describes it as ‘… a beautiful, bold, intently serious film.’


OTHERS TO SEE


I've been seeing the trailers for THE DROP for a while now. Starring Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace and the late James Gandolfini, this crime drama tells the story of Bob Saginowski who finds himself at the center of a robbery gone awry and becomes entwined in an investigation that digs deep into the neighborhood's past where friends, families, and foes all work together to make a living - no matter the cost. Looks good. The Hollywood Reporter’s John DeFore is impressed: The city isn't the star of the film, nor is Lehane's excellent dialogue, and neither is Roskam, here making a sure-footed jump to America after his Belgian debut Bullhead. The picture belongs to Tom Hardy, whose astonishingly sensitive performance even the great James Gandolfini steps gently around.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


Yet another British comedy drama arrives, accompanied by Kevin Kline, Kristin Scott Thomas and Maggie Smith. In MY OLD LADY, An American inherits an apartment in Paris that comes with an unexpected resident. As is to be expected with this particular genre, the general viewing public don't mind it, and the critics are not quite so forgiving. According to The Playlist's Kevin Jagernauth, Though Horovitz's directing is workmanlike solid, and while the movie has a certain charm that makes it easy to walk in the door, it gives you little reason to stay.

ONE TO AVOID


Just one movie to avoid this week: LET’S BE COPS. Two struggling pals dress as police officers for a costume party and become neighborhood sensations. But when these newly-minted "heroes" get tangled in a real life web of mobsters and dirty detectives, they must put their fake badges on the line. I saw this movie on one of my plane trips recently - and it is really terrible. If I get time to review it, I will, but I’d give it just 1 star and consider it an absolute waste of time. The Hollywood Reporter’s Frank Scheck agrees with me: The screenplay co-written by Nicholas Thomas and director Luke Greenfield fails to mine the potentially humorous premise for the necessary laughs, with nearly all of the gags falling thuddingly flat. Give it a wide berth.

NOTE: Movie summaries are adapted from IMDB. Comments on the movies are mine unless otherwise acknowledged.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

INTERSTELLAR

A group of explorers [all American - my only criticism of the movie] make use of a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage. —IMDB

Wow! This is a stunning movie! The IMDB description doesn’t do it justice. INTERSTELLAR is the 2001: A Space Odyssey for this generation - and a darn sight more interesting! It’s a long movie - 169 minutes (2 hours and 50 minutes) - but that time allows for a brilliant, richly evocative, thought-provoking story to be told. And it has one of the most surprising, fresh climaxes I’ve seen in a movie for a long time.

Science fiction, at its best, should explore contemporary themes of significance to humanity - and INTERSTELLAR most certainly does that. What does it mean to be human? How will we deal with the continuing degradation of earth’s climate until humans may not be able to live here anymore? What is science? What is hope and what can we hope in? Where do humans fit in the cosmos? Does space provide another place for us?

The answer provided by INTERSTELLAR leaves any idea of god out of the equation. But the movie is shot through, ultimately, with the hope that humankind can adapt, survive, be reborn from the eschatological ashes of a doomed planet.

The music score (including pipe organs) is superb and unnerving and brings a cathedral-like atmosphere to much of the movie when it occurs in space. And, ultimately, it is love that enables the survival of humanity.

I loved this movie (can you tell)! It is profound and provocative and engaging and suspenseful and hopeful and inspiring. Go see it!

*****

PRIDE

U.K. gay activists work to help miners during their lengthy strike of the National Union of Mineworkers in the summer of 1984. —IMDB

It’s a surprise that this story hasn’t been told before - it is based on true events although does not tell the story accurately. The themes that PRIDE explores are significant and show some of the incredible prejudice and oppression that lesbians and gay men experienced in the 80s. It also drives home the fact that, when groups of diverse people get together and support each other, great things can happen.

However, while the themes are significant, the movie isn’t great. At times, it is hard to resist the good-natured humour and feel-good moments. But overall, PRIDE tries to pack too many stories into the one movie, follows too many characters, and eventually becomes bogged down in trying to include just about every cliche possible in a nice uplifting experience. It feels too long and at least 30 minutes of its 2hr running time could have been safely removed.

Despite it’s flaws, it does get its message across - it just could have been done in a lot better way.

Wait for the DVD.

***

NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION

Rush to the DVD store and pick up a copy of the newly released CALVARY. After he is threatened during a confession, a good-natured priest must battle the dark forces closing in around him.


The name Calvary is derived from a Latin word meaning 'skull'. Christians believe that Jesus was crucified at a place called The Skull, which is often translated in modern versions of the Bible as Calvary. The essence of the Christian story about Jesus is that he was an innocent man who suffered and died for the suffering and sins of humanity. The new movie from director John Michael McDonagh, who gave us The Guard in 2011, draws on this theme in CALVARY, starring Brendan Gleeson, who we have most recently seen as General Brigham in Edge of Tomorrow. Gleeson is sensational.

Calvary tells the story of a good-natured priest who, after he is threatened during a confession, must battle the dark forces closing in around him. Set in a small Irish village where the residents are all flawed humans experiencing immeasurable depths of emotional suffering and pain, Father James Lavelle spends his time travelling around his community trying to pastor his parishioners in what seems like an impossible project. His daughter (played by Kelly Reilly) also comes to visit and she adds to the emotional strain with her own troubled past. The whole story takes place during one week with the backdrop of Father Lavelle's anxiety at the serious threat which opens the film on the first Sunday of the story.

The first line in the movie, spoken by a parishioner (unknown to us) is shocking and is the start of the pealing back of the layers of evil and suffering in this intimate community. The parishioner who threatens the priest makes the point that killing a bad priest wouldn't have any impact. Killing a good priest will draw the required attention. And Father Lavelle is considered a good priest - despite his obvious flawed humanity.

For anyone who knows the Christian story of Jesus Christ and his taking on the suffering of humanity, CALVARY will communicate its striking story with emotional power. For those who don't, there will perhaps be less direct association of the two stories, but every one of us cannot help seeing in this movie a powerful statement of so much apparently in resolvable suffering in our world.

The choice of an "innocent" Catholic priest as the main protagonist of this story is filled with deep irony given what we now know of the evil perpetrated by some priests on young children. As Father Lavelle interacts with his parishioners over the seven days of the story, themes of life, death, suffering, evil, despair are all explored - not always in great depth, but perfused with gallows humour that, paradoxically, while we are laughing, sends an arrow of recognition straight to the heart that proves that humour can deal with the most serious of issues.

The best thing about CALVARY is the dialogue which is sharp, penetrating, and astute. This is no action movie and does, in fact, feel a little slow at times. It won't be to everyone's taste, but, in my opinion, is destined to become a classic.

****1/2

 

 

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Well… hope you enjoyed the movies while I was away. Hope to catch up sometime! Here are the new movies opening this week.

MY TOP PICK TO SEE


Top of the bunch is INTERSTELLAR. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chasten, it tells the story of a group of explorers who make use of a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage. The general public are loving this one! According to The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy, This grandly conceived and executed epic tries to give equal weight to intimate human emotions and speculation about the cosmos, with mixed results, but is never less than engrossing, and sometimes more than that.


OTHERS TO SEE


Looking for some comedy romance? Check out LOVE, ROSIE. Rosie and Alex have been best friends since they were 5, so they couldn't possibly be right for one another...or could they? When it comes to love, life and making the right choices, these two are their own worst enemies.

If you like your romance a bit more serious, maybe MY MISTRESS is for you. What starts as a beautiful and strangely innocent affair between a vulnerable teenage romantic and a French S&M mistress soon becomes more dangerous. Check out the rating before you see this one. And it’s Australian!

Sandra, a young Belgian mother, discovers that her workmates have opted for a significant pay bonus, in exchange for her dismissal, in TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT (Deux jours, une nuit). She has only one weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses so that she can keep her job. Getting very high scores from the critics. For The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney,
It's enriched by signature qualities - the humanistic, nonjudgmental gaze, the absence of sentimentality, the ultra-naturalistic style - that have always distinguished the Belgian brothers' fine body of work.

That's it for this week. See you at the movies!

NB: synopses of movies are adapted from IMDB. Opinions are mine unless quoted from cited sources.

JOHN WICK

An ex-hitman comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that took everything from him.

Little more than an excuse for extreme violence. Cliched story and characters. The titular character, John Wick, played by Keeanu Reeves, kills multiple people in every scene, primarily by shooting them in the head at close range plus just about everywhere else on the body. Not worth seeing.

**1/2

Friday, 31 October 2014

THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

The painful thing about the new movies this week is that I'm in Indonesia until next Tuesday and won't be able to see any of these until then! But here they are anyway ;-)

MY TOP PICK TO SEE


Top pick to see this week is most definitely the comedy drama - based on a true story - PRIDE. If you've seen the trailers you'll be anxious to see what looks to be an excellent movie. In this story, U.K. gay activists work to help miners during their lengthy strike of the National Union of Mineworkers in the summer of 1984. Stars a host of well known British actors, including Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, and Dominic West. According to Total Film’s Neil Smith, it’s A feel-good charmer with an important message[.] Pride will have you clutching your sides, wiping your eyes and punching the air in triumph.

OTHERS TO SEE


JOHN WICK looks interesting - despite the rather lacklustre title. Keanu Reeves plays an ex-hitman who comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that took everything from him. Sounds cliched? Variety’s Peter Debruge says, If you can stomach the setup, then the rest is pure revenge-movie gold, as Reeves reminds what a compelling action star he can be, while the guy who served as his stunt double in “The Matrix” makes a remarkably satisfying directorial debut, delivering a clean, efficient and incredibly assured thriller. Maybe worth a look.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


KILL THE MESSENGER is a biography crime drama about a reporter who becomes the target of a vicious smear campaign that drives him to the point of suicide after he exposes the CIA's role in arming Contra rebels in Nicaragua and importing cocaine into California. Based on the true story of journalist Gary Webb. Mixed reviews on this one with the general viewer rating slightly higher than the critics. According to The Guardian’s Jordan Hoffman, It's a great story that lends itself to some striking scenes. Yet the film in total - if I may paraphrase Webb's critics - has a number of holes. It’s a shame because the story seems pretty interesting.

A French action adventure drama, the French name of which I won’t attempt to write, but which in English is THE YOUNG AND PRODIGIOUS T S SPIVET is all about a ten-year-old cartographer who secretly leaves his family's ranch in Montana where he lives with his cowboy father and scientist mother and travels across the country aboard a freight train to receive an award at the Smithsonian Institute. Sounds different. Critics are not happy overall, one of whom says it’s Like one of its animated 3D asides, the film jumps out at you, twiddles around and then folds itself away into nowhere. It's all pop-up, no book. (The Telegraph: Robbie Collin)

Finally, a drama romance - THE BEST OF ME. A pair of former high school sweethearts reunite after many years when they return to visit their small hometown. Hmm… sounds riveting (not)! TheWrap’s James Rocchi is scathing: The bad news is that no matter how charming or fizzy the chemistry between the actors might be, they're still trapped in the dead, fake melodrama and brainless coincidences of a Nicholas Sparks story. General public like it a bit better - but not by much.

That's it for this week. See you at the movies!

NB: synopses of movies are adapted from IMDB. Opinions are mine unless quoted from cited sources.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

FURY (2014)

April, 1945. As the Allies make their final push in the European Theatre, a battle-hardened army sergeant named Wardaddy commands a Sherman tank and her five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Out-numbered, out-gunned, and with a rookie soldier thrust into their platoon, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds in their heroic attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany. -- IMDB


An outstanding, confronting war movie that approaches the subject with fresh eyes. The story is intense and claustrophobic with a lot of the action taking place inside the cramped confines of a tank. The script is tight and complex and putting a young, inexperienced soldier into a tight-knit fighting unit that's been together for many campaigns is a stroke of brilliance. In the middle of the terror and death of war, men develop deep friendships that help them cope with the horror. FURY portrays both of these dimensions of war in a compelling drama. There is nothing sanitised in this movie. The violence is raw and honest and is interspersed with moments of tense calm. The performances are excellent and Brad Pitt's Don ’WarDaddy' Collier is superbly understated. This is not an easy movie to watch and, yet, it's impossible to turn away. There's a real sense that we are watching the true horror of war and the struggle that ordinary men experience as they fight for emotional survival. It's one of the best war films I've seen.

****

 

 

Friday, 24 October 2014

THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

A reasonable selection of new movies this week.

MY TOP PICK TO SEE


I’m really looking forward to WHIPLASH, my top pick to see this week. A promising young drummer enrolls at a cutthroat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student's potential. Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers, tells us to, Beat the drums for a Simmons Oscar, and add a cymbal crash for Whiplash. It's electrifying. The trailers look excellent!


OTHERS TO SEE


FURY is definitely worth seeing. April, 1945. As the Allies make their final push in the European Theatre, a battle-hardened army sergeant named Wardaddy commands a Sherman tank and her five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Out-numbered, out-gunned, and with a rookie soldier thrust into their platoon, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds in their heroic attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw describes Fury as … a punchy, muscular action film, confidently put together and never anything other than watchable. Watch out for my review coming soon.

For those of you wanting a little comedy drama, check out the Spanish LIVING IS EASY WITH EYES CLOSED. Spain, 1966, a high-school English/Latin teacher, Antonio, drives to Almeria in hopes of meeting his hero, John Lennon. Along the way, Antonio picks up two runaways. The movie title, Living is Easy With Eyes Closed, comes from a line in Lennon's song Strawberry Fields Forever which he wrote while filming How I Won the War in Almeria.’ - Written by af_by94 on IMDB

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


Finally, another comedy drama - this time from America. When their father passes away, four grown siblings are forced to return to their childhood home and live under the same roof together for a week, along with their over-sharing mother and an assortment of spouses, exes and might-have-beens. The Guardian’s Catherine Shoard doesn’t like this one. For her, This is Where I Leave You is totally aimble [sic], utterly unmoving filler given a major shot in the arm by its cast, people it's simply a pleasure to watch, even with the creeping feeling they're better than this. The general viewer is rating this a bit better at around three stars. If you see it, let us know what you think.

That's it for this week. See you at the movies!

NB: synopses of movies are adapted from IMDB. Opinions are mine unless quoted from cited sources.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

SON OF A GUN

Locked up for a minor crime, 19 year old JR quickly learns the harsh realities of prison life. Protection, if you can get it, is paramount. JR soon finds himself under the watchful eye of Australia's most notorious criminal, Brendan Lynch. But protection comes at a price. Lynch and his crew have plans for their young protegee. Upon release, JR must help secure Lynch's freedom, staging a daring prison break. As a reward, he's invited to join the crew as they plan a gold heist that promises to deliver millions. However, as things start to go wrong, a deadly game of cat and mouse ensues. JR finds himself unsure of whom he can trust and on a collision course with his former mentor. -- IMDB

Surprisingly good! A mature Australian crime thriller that is entertaining, well-paced, and well-acted by the two main stars and supporting cast. Ewan McGregor (playing Brendan Lynch) has a powerful screen presence and Brendan Thwaites does a great job of playing the 19 year old JR. At the heart of the action is a sensitive portrayal of father-son relationships as Lynch and Thwaites compensate for each of their father/son absences in their lives. I really enjoyed this - an easy-to-watch, linear plot that is solid and straightforward. Don't miss it.

****

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

FORCE MAJEURE (TURIST)

A family on a ski holiday in the French Alps find themselves staring down an avalanche during lunch one day; in the aftermath, their dynamic has been shaken to its core, with a question mark hanging over their patriarch in particular. — IMDB

A very intriguing psychological study of gender roles, family loyalty, and the bonds that hold families together. While it is a very gentle film, even low points in the movie are deeply engaging as the physical environment is used to great effect along with the nuanced performances. The child actors are also good, demonstrating the potent effects adult emotions can have on children. This is truly an intelligent, adult film. A touch long, perhaps, but the acting is superb as the two main protagonists take us on their internal emotional journeys. If you are looking for something profound and provocative, take a look at this one.

****1/2

Thursday, 16 October 2014

THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Ready to head off to the cinema for some new movies this week?

MY TOP PICK TO SEE
Top movie this week (which isn’t saying much!), is A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES starring the dependable Liam Neeson. Private investigator Matthew Scudder is hired by a drug kingpin to find out who kidnapped and murdered his wife. Total Film’s Matt Glasby say it’s Exciting, in places, though a stranger to subtlety, it ticks all the genre boxes, but there's something about its knowing noirisms that feels superficial rather than soaked-in. So it doesn’t look great but will probably be entertaining.

OTHERS TO SEE
The Chinese biography, drama, romance tells the life story of Xiao Hong, one of China's most famous essayists and novelists, who reflected the progressive thinking not frequently seen during the 1930s.

Another Australian action, crime, drama hits our screen. SON OF A GUN tells the story of 19 year old JR who is locked up for a minor crime, and quickly learns the harsh realities of prison life. Protection, if you can get it, is paramount. JR soon finds himself under the watchful eye of Australia's most notorious criminal, Brendan Lynch. But protection comes at a price. Lynch and his crew have plans for their young protegee. Upon release, JR must help secure Lynch's freedom, staging a daring prison break. As a reward, he's invited to join the crew as they plan a gold heist that promises to deliver millions. However, as things start to go wrong, a deadly game of cat and mouse ensues. JR finds himself unsure of whom he can trust and on a collision course with his former mentor. Sounds good!

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT
The trailers for BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP looked quite intriguing. A woman wakes up every day, remembering nothing as a result of a traumatic accident in her past. One day, new terrifying truths emerge that force her to question everyone around her. The general public are rating it as average, but the critics are not quite that positive. According to The Guardian’s Henry Barnes, It aims for sexy and/or dangerous, but the tone is dry and the pace lags.

ONE TO AVOID
One definite movie to avoid this week is TAMMY starring Melissa McCarthy and Sarah Sarandon. After losing her job and learning that her husband has been unfaithful, a woman hits the road with her profane, hard-drinking grandmother. General viewers and critics agree on this one - it's not good. USA Today’s Claudia Puig says it all: Where 1991's "Thelma & Louise" was funny and action-filled, Tammy's story is thin, cringe-inducing and, worst of all for a comedy, not funny. Jokes land with a thud and the pacing is leaden.mDon't bother!

That's it for this week. See you at the movies!

NB: synopses of movies are adapted from IMDB. Opinions are mine unless quoted from cited sources.

 

Saturday, 11 October 2014

SIDDHARTH

A chain-wallah from Delhi travels across India in search of his missing son, in the hopes that whoever took him, returns him unharmed.

A gentle, but penetrating look, at child kidnapping for child labour in India. The story unfolds without excess as one family - a father, mother and daughter - struggle to come to terms with their missing family member and the absolute frustration that comes with a sense of powerlessness. SIDDHARTH is beautifully filmed with surprising insights into Indian culture and society. A mature, passionate movie that allows the viewer to enter into the story in an almost meditative way. Felt a little long at times but, overall, very rewarding with a very strong finale.

***1/2