Mar 252015
 

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In cinemas this week: InfinitelyPolar Bear, Shaun the Sheep, Leviathan,  Cinderella, A Little Chaos, Get Hard and Dior and I.

Infinitely Polar Bear –  Maggie (Zoe Saldana) and Cam (Mark Ruffalo) have a loving, but volatile relationship. Cam is a diagnosed manic-depressive, and while his love for his wife and two daughters is undeniable, he can’t always keep an even keel. After a particularly frightening manic episode, Maggie leaves Cam and moves the family to Boston. Cam is forced to live in temporary single accommodation. Despite Cam’s wealthy family and Maggie’s infallible work ethic, the family struggles to make ends meet. When Maggie is offered a full scholarship to study business at Columbia, she is elated – this is their ticket out of poverty. However, this means leaving Faith and Amelia (Imogene Wolodarsky) in the full-time care of her father. Maggie and Cam decide to take the leap, and through his extreme highs and extreme lows, he cares for the girls while Maggie works hard to secure them a better future. Continue reading Sam’s review from An Online Universe at the link.

Shaun the Sheep - When Shaun’s mischief inadvertently leads to the Farmer being taken away from the farm, Shaun, Bitzer and the flock have to go into the big city to rescue him, setting the stage for an epic adventure. Meant to be great, plus it is from the creators of Wallace and Gromit.

Leviathan - The latest drama from Andrey Zvyagintsev, the acclaimed director of The Return (Venice Film Festival Golden Lion winner). Kolya (Alexeï Serebriakov) lives in a small fishing town near the stunning Barents Sea in Northern Russia. He owns an auto-repair shop that stands right next to the house where he lives with his young wife Lilya (Elena Liadova) and his son Roma (Sergueï Pokhodaev) from a previous marriage. Isolated in a desolate coastal boneyard, an aging patriarch battles a corrupt official seeking to purchase the land his home stands upon and then finds his cherished relationships begin to crumble around him as a result. Marvellously constructed and photographed, this is a gut-wrenching story of a proud Everyman whose oppression grows increasingly closer, eventually enveloping everything he cares for and has stakes in.

Cinderella - When her father unexpectedly passes away, young Ella finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and her daughters. Never one to give up hope, Ella’s fortunes begin to change after meeting a dashing stranger. Starring Lily James, Cate Blanchet and James Madden, this revisionist take on the Disney classic is directed by Kenneth Branagh and supposed to be quite good.

A Little Chaos - A romantic drama following Sabine (Academy Award winner Kate Winslet), a strong-willed and talented landscape designer, who is chosen to build one of the main gardens at King Louis XIV’s new palace at Versailles. In her new position of power, she challenges gender and class barriers while also becoming professionally and romantically entangled with the court’s renowned landscape artist André Le Notre (Matthias Schoenaerts). Directed by Alan Rickman this had its premiere at TIFF last year, and met petty negative responses. Still, should be light entertainment, and worth a look for the Winslet/Schoenaerts match-up.

Get Hard - Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart headline this Warner Bros. comedy about a wrongfully convicted investment banker who prepares for prison life with the help of the man who washes his car. Etan Cohen directs, with Ian Roberts and Jay Martel handling screenwriting duties. Eh.

Dior and I - Frédéric Tcheng’s solo directorial debut brings the viewer inside the storied world of the Christian Dior fashion house with a privileged, behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Raf Simons’ first haute couture collection as its new artistic director-a true labor of love created by a dedicated group of collaborators. Melding the everyday, pressure-filled components of fashion with mysterious echoes from the iconic brand’s past, the film is also a colorful homage to the seamstresses who serve Simons’ vision.

Weekly Recommendation: Infinitely Polar Bear is a warm, loving film, an endearingly personal study of family togetherness through tough times. The performances are terrific. I am not sure I ever want to watch Leviathan again, but it feels like a true testament to Crime and Punishment, a painful epic of human drama with bold contemporary commentary. I definitely want to see Shaun the Sheep, and am genuinely intrigued by Alan Rickman’s A Little Chaos. Something for everyone this week, as it should be. 

Mar 242015
 

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After years of stories reporting Netflix was launching a local service, it has finally happened. Today Netflix launched Netflix Australia and New Zwaland with pricing plans starting for A$8.99 per month for Australia and NZ$9.99 per month for New Zealand  (one month free trial available). Those in Aus who have internet through iiNet or one of their subsidiaries (such as Optus), will get the added bonus of Netflix being unmetered – meaning it doesn’t count towards your data usage. Take note though, those using a VPN to access Netflix US etc will still be charged – this only applies to Aus customers directly accessing Netflix Aus/NZ the old-fashioned way.

Netflix’s Australia and New Zealand offerings will be different, with Stuff reporting that Kiwis will miss out on the likes of Downton Abby and season 3 of House of Cards, which are/will be available in the Australian catalogue.

It’s said that more than 200k Australians are thought to be accessing Netflix via VPN. How many will change? Well, that entirely depends on how quickly the Aus/NZ Netflix catalogue grows. It’s never going to have everything the US Netflix has due to licensing deals and issues acquiring local rights, but there is still potential. Considering the cost of US Netflix + VP is about US$13 per month, the Aus/NZ pricing does come out considerably cheaper, especially when the appalling exchange rate is taken into account.

It’s fantastic that film & TV lovers in this part of the world finally have legitimate access to the service, and if nothing else, it’s going to shake up the local market and provide some much-needed competition.

If you sign up to Netflix, let us know what you think of the offerings.

Mar 232015
 

The fifth Mission Impossible film has a name and a teaser trailer. Tom Cruise would like you to all know that he still has abs – I’m pretty sure it’s in his contract that he must be shirtless in at least on extended scene.

Jokes aside the film looks fun. I enjoy the high-octane action in this series and like Ethan’s sensibilities – he’s somewhere between the cockiness of Bond, and the down-to-earth seriousness of Bourne.

The [short] official synopsis for the film is as follows: “Ethan and team take on their most impossible mission yet, eradicating the Syndicate, an International rogue organization, as highly skilled as they are, committed to destroying the IMF.”

The film is set to be released in Australian cinemas on August 6, 2015.

Mar 212015
 

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“Our Dad is totally polar bear” says Faith (Ashley Aufderheide) to her friends of her father, played by Mark Ruffalo. She of course means, bi-polar, but this little exchange is a perfect example of the warmth and humour which Infinitely Polar Bear employs to explore serious issues such as mental illness, race, working mothers and poverty. Review after the jump.

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Mar 202015
 

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Jack O’Connell – see his star-making performance in outstanding prison drama Starred Up before headlining Angelina Jolie’s POW-biopic Unbroken – in addition to being one of the most beat-up on-screen actors in the business, is also one of the most promising actors of his generation. He is sensational again in urban war thriller ‘71, the début feature from filmmaker Yann Demange, who won Best Director at the 2014 British Independent Spirit Awards. It is also the first feature screenplay from veteran Scottish playwright Gregory Burke. The civil tension that tore apart 1971 Belfast is brought to life in brutal, authentic, unflinching fashion in this tight, gripping film that balances historical truth with formal audacity.

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Mar 172015
 

In cinemas this week: ’71, Big Eyes, Love is Strange, Home, Insurgent and Run All Night. 

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’71 takes place over a single night in the life of a young British soldier (Jack O’Connell) accidentally abandoned by his unit following a riot on the streets of Belfast in 1971. Unable to tell friend from foe, and increasingly wary of his own comrades, he must survive the night alone and find his way to safety through a disorientating, alien and deadly landscape. Been hearing great things about this war thriller for a while now – including the fact that it features another sterling performance from O’Connell and welcomes an exciting new voice in Yann Demange. I feel like this is essential viewing.

Big Eyes - Directed and produced by Tim Burton, Big Eyes is based on the true story of Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz), who was one of the most successful painters of the 1950s and early 1960s. The artist earned staggering notoriety by revolutionizing the commercialization and accessibility of popular art with his enigmatic paintings of waifs with big eyes. The truth would eventually be discovered though: Keane’s art was actually not created by him at all, but by his wife, Margaret (Amy Adams). The Keanes, it seemed, had been living a lie that had grown to gigantic proportions. Big Eyes centers on Margaret’s awakening as an artist, the phenomenal success of her paintings, and her tumultuous relationship with her husband, who was catapulted to international fame while taking credit for her work. I am more interested in this for Adams and Waltz than Burton, but it is nice to see a departure from the norm for the veteran director.

Love is Strange - After nearly four decades together, Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) finally tie the knot in an idyllic wedding ceremony in lower Manhattan. But when George loses his job soon after, the couple must sell their apartment and – victims of the relentless New York City real estate market – temporarily live apart until they can find an affordable new home. While George moves in with two cops (Cheyenne Jackson and Manny Perez) who live down stairs, Ben lands in Brooklyn with his nephew (Darren Burrows), his wife (Marisa Tomei), and their temperamental teenage son (Charlie Tahan), with whom Ben shares a bedroom. While struggling with the pain of separation, Ben and George are further challenged by the intergenerational tensions and capricious family dynamics of their new living arrangements. This is a pleasant, but unfocused film. After a promising start this never quite delivers on all its themes. It dwells on inconsequential subplots, but when Molina and Lithgow get together it excels. It is competently made and the performances are quite strong, but the touching messages entwined within the story wither away shortly after viewing.

Home - When Oh, a loveable misfit from another planet, lands on Earth and finds himself on the run from his own people, he forms an unlikely friendship with an adventurous girl named Tip who is on a quest of her own. Through a series of comic adventures with Tip, Oh comes to understand that being different and making mistakes is all part of being human. And while he changes her planet and she changes his world, they discover the true meaning of the word HOME. I think I’ll pass on this.

Insurgent raises the stakes for Tris as she searches for allies and answers in the ruins of a futuristic Chicago. Tris (Woodley) and Four (James) are now fugitives on the run, hunted by Jeanine (Winslet), the leader of the power-hungry Erudite elite. Racing against time, they must find out what Tris’s family sacrificed their lives to protect, and why the Erudite leaders will do anything to stop them. Haunted by her past choices but desperate to protect the ones she loves, Tris, with Four at her side, faces one impossible challenge after another as they unlock the truth about the past and ultimately the future of their world. I still haven’t seen Divergent, but I haven’t heard to much positive about it, so I will give this a miss too.

Run all Night - Liam Neeson reunites with Unknown director Jaume Collet-Serra for this Warner Bros. thriller following a mob hit-man and his estranged son (Joel Kinnaman) as they flee the wrath of a vengeful crime boss. I liked Unknown, but I well and truly have Neeson fatigue.

Weekly Recommendation – ’71 looks to be the most promising of the pack, and I intend to have see it and Big Eyes by the end of the weekend. Love is Strange is worth a look, but I wouldn’t stress about seeing it in cinemas. 

Mar 132015
 

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Thanks to Matthew Pejkovic for this addition to The Forgotten series. You can read more of Matt’s writing here [Ed].

Talk to you average movie fan about filmmaker Martin Scorsese and the usual films we pop up: Goodfellas; Taxi Driver; Raging Bull… Yet constantly lost in the shuffle is the 1973 classic Mean Streets, a film that is not only authentic in feel and immensely personal in its subject matter, but also marked the arrival of Scorsese and his unique brand of urban filmmaking.

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Mar 132015
 

In cinemas this week: Inherent Vice, Chappie, Top Five, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them, Manny Lewis and Kidnapping Mr Heineken. 

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY

Inherent ViceThe seventh feature from Paul Thomas Anderson and the first ever film adaption of a Thomas Pynchon novel. When private eye Doc Sportello’s ex-old lady suddenly out of nowhere shows up with a story about her current billionaire land developer boyfriend whom she just happens to be in love with, and a plot by his wife and her boyfriend to kidnap that billionaire and throw him in a looney bin…well, easy for her to say. With a cast of characters that includes surfers, hustlers, dopers and rockers, a murderous loan shark, LAPD Detectives, a tenor sax player working undercover, and a mysterious entity known as the Golden Fang this is part surf noir, part psychedelic romp, and all Thomas Pynchon. PTA has done it again, here. The vastly-threaded narrative requires strict attention, but at the same time it is rewarding to just relax and luxuriate in the film’s plethora of riches and not worry about putting all of the pieces together. It is about as good an adaptation as is possible of Pynchon’s novel, and Phoenix (as always) is excellent. Review at the link.

ChappieIn the near future, crime is patrolled by an oppressive mechanized police force. But now, the people are fighting back. When one police droid, Chappie, is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself. As powerful, destructive forces start to see Chappie as a danger to mankind and order, they will stop at nothing to maintain the status quo and ensure that Chappie is the last of his kind. Loved District 9but Elysium was very disappointing. I have little interest in this, but there have been some strong defence for the film of late, so I am more intrigued than anything.

Top FivePulsing with the rhythm of his greatest stand-up, Chris Rock’s Top Five takes things to the next level, revelling in the high and the low, and blending a star-studded comedic romp with an irresistible romance. Top Five digs under the surface of show business, politics, rap, and the exigencies of being black and famous today-holding it all up to the light in the way only Chris Rock can. Written, directed by, and starring Chris Rock, it tells the story of New York City comedian-turned-film star Andre Allen, whose unexpected encounter with a journalist (Rosario Dawson) forces him to confront the comedy career – and the past – that he’s left behind. This is a personal celebrity-insider study about sticking to your honest self; and it is both sincere and crass. Over-stretches a bit, but often very funny. Littered with hilarious cultural tidbits and cameos. And provokes immediate consideration: Who’s your top five?

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: ThemWith his unique vision, writer/director Ned Benson ambitiously captures a complete picture of a relationship in this beautifully relatable portrait of love, empathy and truth. Once happily married, Conor (McAvoy) and Eleanor (Chastain) suddenly find themselves as strangers longing to understand each other in the wake of tragedy. The film explores the couple’s story as they try to reclaim the life and love they once knew and pick up the pieces of a past that may be too far gone. Screened for the first time at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, Benson’s latest version of their story combines his previous two films – titled Him and Her- uniting their perspectives and taking a further look into the subjectivity of relationships. Note: Him and Her are available on Dendy Direct and iTunes, while Them is exclusive theatrically to Dendy Newtown in Sydney. Saw the two separate films back at the Sydney Film Festival last year and found them very moving. The casting is excellent and all of the character relationships are written so well. I am intrigued to see Them to see how they could condense this worthy double-bill into a single film and maintain the depth of study.

Kidnapping Mr. Heineken - In 1983, a group of childhood friends pulled off the crime of the century: kidnapping one of the richest men in the world, the heir of the Heineken beer empire (Anthony Hopkins). The shocking capture–by gunpoint in broad daylight on the streets of Amsterdam–resulted in the largest ransom ever paid for a kidnapped individual. It was truly the perfect crime…until they got away with it. Based on a true story, Kidnapping Mr. Heineken also stars Anthony Hopkins, Sam Worthington, Jim Sturgess and Ryan Kwanten. Bad reviews but the premise is enticing, and that cast isn’t bad. 

Weekly Recommendation: Inherent Vice is essential, it is just so much fun, and you shouldn’t miss The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her/Him. If you have the access to Dendy Direct or iTunes I recommend checking out the pair of films (Her first). I also enjoyed Top Five if you are after something a little bit lighter. Worth it for the cameos alone.