Nov 252015


In cinemas this week: Creed, By the Sea, The Program, Love the Coopers and Hotel Transylvania 2. 

Creed – Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) never knew his famous father, world heavy weight champion Apollo Creed, who died before he was born. Still, there’s no denying that boxing is in his blood, so Adonis heads to Philadelphia, the site of Apollo Creed’s legendary match with a tough upstart named Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). Rocky sees in Adonis the strength and determination he had known in Apollo – the fierce rival who became his closest friend. Keep an eye out for Johnson’s review of the film, I expect he liked it every bit as much as I. It is brash, modern and emotional filmmaking that wears its weathered nostalgia proudly. Most committed to observing Adonis develop his mental toughness, as he searches for his identity, but the bouts are astonishingly shot. Sly and Jordan are fantastic. Full of chilling, heart-wrenching moments, including a single-take for the ages.

By The Sea – A married couple takes a vacation in France in the 1970s and find that their time in a sleepy seaside town, complete with a unique array of locals, strengthens their bond and reaffirms their marriage. Interesting only for Angie and Brad sharing the screen together once again, but international reactions aren’t strong enough to kindle much desire to see it.

The Program – This is the true story of the meteoric rise and fall of one of the most celebrated and controversial men in recent history, Lance Armstrong (portrayed by Ben Foster). Armstrong fatigue? Do we need this?

Love the Coopers – When four generations of the Cooper family come together for their annual Christmas Eve celebration, a series of unexpected visitors and unlikely events turn the night upside down, leading them all towards a surprising rediscovery of family bonds and the spirit of Christmas. Christmas movies are a guilty pleasure so I have this on my watch-list, and with such a talented cast, we expect it will have just enough charming moments to balance out the questionable creative pedigree.

Hotel Transylvania 2 – Everything seems to be changing for the better at Hotel Transylvania… Dracula’s rigid monster-only hotel policy has finally relaxed, opening up its doors to human guests. But behind closed coffins, Drac is worried that his half-human, half-vampire grandson, Dennis, isn’t showing signs of being a vampire. He enlists his friends Frank, Murray, Wayne and Griffin to put Dennis through a “monster-in-training” boot camp. But little do they know that Drac’s grumpy and very old, old, old school dad Vlad is about to pay a family visit to the hotel. And when Vlad finds out that his great-grandson is not a pure blood – and humans are now welcome at Hotel Transylvania – things are going to get batty. The first one had its fair share of laughs, but I can’t imagine parents are going to be overjoyed with being dragged along to another one.

Weekly Recommendation: Creed. Whether you are a Rocky fan or not, this will not disappoint.

Nov 252015

Beasts of No Nation

Overnight the nominees for this year’s Independent Spirit Awards were announced. The rather fascinating selections were led by Todd Haynes’ Carol, with six nominations, Beasts of No Nation, Netflix’s first move into original feature film making, scored five, while vivid journalism drama Spotlight, iPhone5 feat Tangerine and latest Charlie Kaufman brain-buster Anomalisa landed four. These five films were also honoured with Best Feature nominations, with Spotlight also scoring the coveted Altman Award for Best Ensemble Cast.

While only a few of these films will likely be recognised at next year’s Oscars, we do expect Carol and Spotlight to be right amongst them. Anomalisa is looking like a lock for a Best Animated Film nomination, but will it break out into other categories as it has here? The directors of the five aforementioned films were joined by David Robert Mitchell for breakout horror hit It Follows, which was also recognised for cinematography and editing.

Donald Margulies’ screenplay and Jason Segel’s performance as David Foster Wallace in The End of the Tour were recognised, as were Brie Larson’s widely acclaimed performance in and Emma Donoghue’s first screenplay for Room. Diary of a Teenage Girl, James White and Mediterranea all received multiple nominations, including Best First Feature.  

In the acting categories both Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett were acknowledged for Carol, as were transgender actresses Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor for Tangerine, which is fantastic to see. Beasts of No Nation also received two nominations in acting categories, for Abraham Attah (lead) and Idris Elba (supporting). Paul Dano (Love & Mercy) and Michael Shannon (99 Homes) strengthened their chances for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination with one here. They are joined by Kevin Corrigan, also honoured at the Gotham Awards for his brilliant work on Results. 

The 2016 Spirit Awards nominees can be found after the jump. What are your thoughts? Continue reading »

Nov 242015

15 years ago they were at the top of the modelling world, but now Derick (Ben Stiler) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) are old and lame. When the world’s most beautiful people start being killed, all dying with Derick’s signature look on their face, the pair are the only ones who can stop the evil mastermind behind it all.

Featuring a cast which includes Penélope Cruz, Kristen Wiig, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Will Ferrell, Zoolander 2 looks absolutely ridiculous and oh so much fun.

The film is set for release in Australia on February 11, 2016.

Nov 202015


Francis Lawrence returns to direct the final cinematic adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ best-selling novel series. From literary phenomenon to enormously popular blockbuster series, The Hunger Games have become a staple of the cinematic calendar, just as enduring heroine Katniss Everdeen and lead actress Jennifer Lawrence have become household names. Once a face in the crowd, Katniss has become a liberator of a revolution and a wielder of enormous responsibility. Her strong will, integrity and selflessness when faced with life-threatening stakes has made her a source of inspiration for many. A refresh of the events in Part 1 are not supplied here – the story continues immediately – so it is recommended that you familiarise yourself before delving into the finale. Unfortunately, the over-attenuated Mockingjay Part 2 will likely serve as a satisfying resolution for die-hard fans of the novels, but for those who have enjoyed the films and are eagerly seeking closure, it possesses the same issues that plagued Part 1.  Continue reading »

Nov 182015


In cinemas this week: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, 99 Homes, The Secret in Their Eyes, Absolutely Anything, The Crow’s Egg.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 – Realising the stakes are no longer just for survival, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) teams up with her closest friends, including Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Finnick for the ultimate mission. Together, they leave District 13 to liberate the citizens of war-torn Panem and assassinate President Snow, who’s obsessed with destroying Katniss. What lies ahead are mortal traps, dangerous enemies and moral choices that will ultimately determine the future of millions. Part 1 wasn’t earth-shattering – it is half of a film, with no beginning and end – but unfortunately Part 2 suffers from similar cumbersome length and pacing woes despite a few excellent action sequences. 

99 Homes – A desperate construction worker (Andrew Garfield) reluctantly accepts a job with the ruthless real-estate broker (Michael Shannon) who evicted him and his family from their home. Faultless performances from Shannon and Garfield anchor this timely drama that has an unnerving emotional intensity. Bahrani is a wonderful director, and aside from a few script hiccups, his direction is impeccable. I saw it at SFF, where it ended up being one of my favourites. Thoughts at the link.

The Secret in Their Eyes – Rising FBI investigators Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Jess (Julia Roberts), along with Claire (Nicole Kidman), their district-attorney supervisor, are suddenly torn apart following the brutal murder of Jess’ teenage daughter. Thirteen years later, after obsessively searching for the elusive killer, Ray uncovers a new lead that he is certain can permanently resolve the case and bring long-desired closure to the team. But no one is prepared for the shocking and unspeakable secret that follows. This is a re-make of the excellent Argentinian winner of the Best Foreign Language Oscar. Very skeptical about this – are they actually going to try and replicate ‘that’ scene? 

Absolutely Anything – This film follows a disillusioned school teacher (Simon Pegg) who suddenly finds he has the ability to do anything he wishes, a challenge bestowed upon him by a group of power-crazed aliens, watching him from space. As he struggles to deal with these new found powers and the events that subsequently arise, he calls upon his loyal canine companion Dennis to help him along the way. Mishap after mishap finally leads him to the ultimate conundrum that all men dread and at which many have failed…should he choose the girl…or the dog…?

The Crow’s Egg mines the wide open territory between Tamil social realism and Bollywood escapism. Big Crow’s Egg and Little Crow’s Egg — the name comes from their favourite scavenged food — are two poor kids from the slums of Chennai. They have one burning ambition: to taste a slice of the wondrous new global consumer food, pizza, from the glossy new franchise in their neighborhood. Their enthusiasm is undiminished by the fact that a slice costs more than their family’s monthly income. This is a film that manages to have its heart and its head in the right place.

Weekly Recommendation: We were disappointed by the final Hunger Games instalment, so we recommend 99 Homes.  



Nov 172015


Chris Elena was lucky enough to speak with Ramin Bahrani back in June when he was a guest of the Sydney Film Festival, in town to promote his new film 99 Homes. The film is released in Australian cinemas Thursday 19 November and we highly recommend go out and see it. Some thoughts from Chris on the film and some words from Ramin Bahrani are after the jump – [Ed].

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Nov 162015


The Knight of Cups is a dreamer. He is amiable, but easily bored. Artistic and refined, yet in constant need of stimulation. The Knight here is Rick (Christian Bale) a successful, yet unfulfilled player in the movie business. He does not know what he seeks, but whatever it is, he’s having a hard time finding it. Knight of Cups is reviewed after the jump.

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Nov 122015


Fresh from the success of the critically acclaimed Skyfall, the rejuvenated Bond series continues with its 24th official installment, it’s fourth with Daniel Craig in the tux.

In the aftermath of a failed terrorist plot in Mexico City, James Bond (Daniel Craig) uncovers the existence of the eponymous criminal organisation which has a startling connection to his past, particularly in the form of its leader, Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz). Meanwhile, M (Ralph Fiennes) faces mounting pressure as the fate of MI6 hangs in the balance.

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