May 022015
 

Backtofuture3

It rained a lot in Sydney this month. When it rains I like to stay home and binge watch TV; I don’t really feel like going out to the cinema. I only saw 5 films on the big screen this month, but I watched a heck of a lot of TV. Oh and documentaries, I watched a handful of those too. My April round-up is after the jump.

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Apr 302015
 

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This month I focused more on watching television. I set myself a goal to watch a number of shows in their entirety, and succeeded. Mostly. I also managed to watch quite a few films (24) – more on VOD at home than in the cinema, surprisingly enough. We did attend the Avengers: Age of Ultron premiere, which was a fun night, but that was the only screening. We set ourselves an enlightening Easter long weekend marathon – to watch a number of filmmakers’ debut films. Andrea Arnold, Jean-Luc Godard and Christopher Nolan amongst them.

I continued to work my way through Dragon Age: Inquisition on the PS4 and am nearing the conclusion. If I play a better game in 2015 I am a lucky newly-inspired gamer.

You can check out some brief thoughts on everything I have watched in April after the jump: Continue reading »

Apr 292015
 

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In cinemas this week: Unfriended, Tracers and Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter. 

Unfriended unfolds over a teenager’s computer screen as she and her friends are stalked by an unseen figure who seeks vengeance for a shaming video that led a vicious bully to kill herself a year earlier. Some reviews have mentioned that this offers a fresh take on the found footage sub-genre, while raising some important awareness about the dark side of social networking.

TracersAfter he crashes his bike into a stranger named Nikki (Avgeropoulos), Cam (Lautner) is introduced to her crew — a team that uses parkour to pull off heists. Hoping to alleviate his deepening debt to a violent crime gang, Cam quickly joins the group. As the stakes get higher with more dangerous side ventures, the payouts get bigger. Cam must use every ounce of his skill to stay alive as the crew’s heists grow more daring with each job, and gang enforcers breathe relentlessly down his neck. This has an identical poster to that other Taylor Lautner film Abductionand I expect it is probably just as bad.

Kumiko, The Treasure HunterIn this darkly comedic odyssey, Academy Award nominee Rinko Kikuchi (Babel, Pacific Rim) stars as Kumiko, a frustrated Office Lady whose imagination transcends the confines of her mundane life. Kumiko becomes obsessed with a mysterious, battered VHS tape of a popular film she’s mistaken for a documentary, fixating on a scene where a suitcase of stolen cash is buried in the desolate, frozen landscape of North Dakota. Believing this treasure to be real, she leaves behind Tokyo and her beloved rabbit Bunzo to recover it – and finds herself on a dangerous adventure unlike anything she’s seen in the movies. With Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter, indie mavericks the Zellner Bros. spin a strangely touching underdog fable, populated by eccentrics and elevated to sonic heights by a Sundance award-winning score from electro-indie outfit The Octopus Project, that will leave audiences rooting for the impossible. I’m curious to watch this film again, because I had mixed feelings about it when I saw it at Sydney Film Festival last year. Thoughts at the link.

Weekly Recommendation: You could go and watch Age of Ultron again, but I am waiting out until next week for Ex Machina and Clouds of Sils Maria.

Apr 282015
 

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In its 62nd year, the festival has launched a family programme, aimed towards families with children of all ages. The inaugural programme features four feature films and a collection of animated shorts. The films will screen at daytime sessions during the weekend.

I am particularly looking forward to Song of the Sea, Tomme Moore’s follow-up film to the absolutely gorgeous The Secret of Kells.

The SFF 2015 family program includes:

KIDS ANIMATION SHOWCASE
A selection of animated short films chosen for a discerning young audience. Expect lots of clever animals, plenty of laughs and the odd scary moment for good measure! Suitable for children aged 3-8 years.

GAYBY BABY
Director: Maya Newell | Australia | 85mins | In English
Kids raised by same-sex couples are growing in numbers worldwide. This intimate, humorous doco offers a refreshingly frank picture of the Gayby-Boom we seem to be experiencing in the midst of the marriage equality debate. Suitable for children aged 6+ years.

SONG OF THE SEA
Director: Tomm Moore | Ireland, Luxembourg, Belgium, France, Denmark | 90mins | In English
Nominated for Best Animated Feature at this year’s Oscars, this magical treat for families, inspired by Celtic legend, is chock-full of glorious hand-drawn imagery, captivating critters and lilting Gaelic music. Suitable for children aged 6+ years.

THE CROW’S EGG
Director: M. Manikandan| India | 99mins | In Tamil
Dubbed the new Slumdog Millionaire, this is a funny, charming South Indian tale of two mischievous, resourceful brothers from a Chennai slum who become determined to taste pizza for the very first time. Suitable for children aged 8+ years.

WIDE OPEN SKY
Director: Lisa Nicol | Australia | 79mins | In English
This heart-warming doco about childhood, creativity and community chronicles the journey of an outback Australian children’s choir from auditions to their end-of-year concert and all the trials they face along the way. Suitable for children aged 6+ years.

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Apr 232015
 

Robert Downey Jr.

In cinemas this week: Avengers: Age of Ultron, Testament of Youth, Banksy Does New York and Boychoir. 

Avengers: Age of UltronWith S.H.I.E.L.D now destroyed, it has been left up to The Avengers to eliminate the considerable global threats. In need of a hiatus, Tony Stark re-commences a long dormant peacekeeping program called Ultron, which he developed with Dr. Bruce Banner, a self-aware artificial intelligence. But, as is commonly the case when scientists create something in their own image, it turns on them. Ultron (voiced to perfection by James Spader), who is overwhelmed with a God Complex, turns on Stark and decides that to keep the peace on Earth he must eradicate the human race. The squad are called to swift action, and Ultron finds his own allies in the powerful twins Pietro/Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). This is a thrilling end of phase two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with new films for Iron Man, Thor and Captain America as well as Guardians of the Galaxy coming since the last Avengers film three years ago. While the trailers suggest that this would take on a much darker tone, I can assure you that all of the fun remains. Full thoughts at the link. 

Testament of Youth is a searing story of love and war. Based on the classic First World War memoir from Vera Brittain, this is the incredible true story of one young woman’s struggle to survive the horrors of war, which robbed her of everyone and everything she held dear, but was ultimately unable to break her extraordinary spirit. This is a well-acted, elegant, gorgeously photographed and stirring study of a generation’s war-torn love, hope and opportunity. I feared it was going to be too war-lite for a while, but the direction manages to avoid soppy sentimentality quite deftly. Plus you get to see Alicia Vikander in an array of cute hats.

Banksy Does New YorkA chronicle of British street artist Banksy’s “Better Out Than In” project, a surreptitious residency in New York City boroughs that drew a devoted following eager to find a new piece for each day in October 2013. My interest in Banksy piqued immediately after Exit Through the Gift Shop, which is a brilliant documentary. I haven’t thought about him much since then but if I get the chance to watch this on home entertainment release I will.

BoychoirFrom acclaimed director François Girard (The Red Violin) comes the inspirational story of a rebellious kid with a remarkable gift who is challenged by a demanding teacher to make the most unlikely of dreams come true. A stellar ensemble – including two-time Oscar-winner Dustin Hoffman, Oscar-winner Kathy Bates and two-time Emmy winner Eddie Izzard, along with Debra Winger, Josh Lucas, and Kevin McHale – headline a cast that also introduces an exciting group of newcomers as the young singers who battle each other as they take their boychoir to the competitive heights. Almost saw this at TIFF last year, but favoured others. It looks like quite a pleasant family drama.

Weekly Recommendation: I have only seen Age of Ultron and Testament of Youth. Will Ultron chase down Furious 7 at the Box Office? The latter has set a mark untouchable for seemingly everything not called The Avengers. If you are venturing to the cinema this weekend, I expect it will be for The Avengers, but if you have time for something else I can recommend the affecting war drama Testament of Youth.

Apr 222015
 

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It is now three years ago that The Avengers hit international cinemas, breaking Box Office records and sending adoring lifelong Marvel fans and appreciative film goers alike into a frenzy. Since then the Marvel Cinematic Universe has expanded with Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Captain America (Chris Evans) each scoring a new film, and the franchise shot into space with the nostalgic space opera Guardians of the Galaxy. Joss Whedon is back to write and direct Age of Ultron, which will deliver everything fans of the franchise could possibly hope for, while exceeding most of the prior instalments in scope and fun.

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Apr 202015
 

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Presenting the best films and artwork from around the world, the annual Human Rights Arts & Film Festival (HRAFF) will challenge, touch and inspire audiences from all walks of life.

For a fortnight in Melbourne, and three weeks across the country, HRAFF exhibits a selection of contemporary cinema, music and fine art. In its eighth year, HRAFF continues to provide a shared site whereby artists, human rights organisations and the Australian public are united by their desire to contribute to social change.

Opening the festival in Melbourne is the powerful I Will Not be Silenced. Australian Charlotte Campbell Stephen was attacked and raped by a gang of men while living in Kenya in 2006. Spurred on by comments from one of her lawyers that “no one wins rape cases in Kenya”, she decides to take her rapists to court. This was to be the beginning of seven years of struggling through the frustrating labyrinth of Kenya’s legal system. Undaunted, Charlotte ploughs on, becoming involved in advocacy groups and bringing hope to Nairobi’s many rape victims, in a story of justice, indomitable spirit and female solidarity.

Highlights from the programme include:

Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story – Abundance is the success story of the human species, but how much food do we actually waste? Canadian food lovers, Jen and Grant, dumpster-dive head first into the issue of consumption and wastage, by surviving solely on food waste for six months.

Ivory Tower – In 2014, student debt in America trickled into over 1 trillion dollars. This terrifying figure is the basis of esteemed documentarian Andrew Rossi’s (Page One: Inside the New York Times) latest investigatory project, Ivory Tower. Stimulating and shocking, this worldwide trend of skyrocketing tuition is an urgent issue that ultimately begs the question, is it worth the cost?

Pervert Park – An issue often considered too difficult to address, Pervert Park carefully explores the daily life of residents at Florida Justice Transitions, a halfway home to 120 registered sexual offenders. This bold, innovative and important documentary neither demonises nor sympathises with its subjects, but rather provides a deeper context and contemplation of an issue too often ignored.

A Quiet Inquisition – Nicaragua is one of five countries where it is illegal to terminate a pregnancy, even in instances of rape, incest, or to save the mother’s life. Leading OBGYN, Dr. Carla Cerrato, is constantly faced with this dilemma, as she risks persecution daily by honouring her medical and moral obligations. This compelling documentary expertly handles a highly contested issue with a humanistic and brave perspective.

HRAFF 2015 will be held in Melbourne from 7 – 21 of May before heading around the country on tour. To view the full programmee and book tickets, head over to the festival website. You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook.