May 222015


A section of Disneyland since 1955, Tomorrowland represents the possibility and optimism in post-war America. Brought to life by director Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles), the Tomorrowland of this film represents both possibility and failure. Greed and complacency has almost driven the world to a point of no return. Could Tomorrowland be the beacon of hope so desperately needed? Tomorrowland is reviewed after the jump.

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May 222015


New to cinemas this week: Spy, Woman in Gold, Wild Tales and Danny Collins.

SpySusan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) is an unassuming, deskbound CIA analyst, and the unsung hero behind the Agency’s most dangerous missions. But when her partner (Jude Law) falls off the grid and another top agent (Jason Statham) is compromised, she volunteers to go deep undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer, and prevent a global disaster. I am always wary when I see “from the creators of Bridesmaids” but this looks really funny. Hit-and-miss with McCarthy, but heard all good things about this one.

Woman in GoldThe remarkable true story of one woman’s journey to reclaim her heritage and seek justice for what happened to her family. Sixty years after she fled Vienna during World War II, an elderly Jewish woman, Maria Altmann (Mirren), starts her journey to retrieve family possessions seized by the Nazis, among them Klimt’s famous painting ‘Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I’. Together with her inexperienced but plucky young lawyer Randy Schoenberg (Reynolds), she embarks upon a major battle which takes them all the way to the heart of the Austrian establishment and the U.S. Supreme Court, and forces her to confront difficult truths about the past along the way. I was surprised by how moved I was by this extraordinary story. Strong performances from Mirren and Reynolds. Review at the link.

Wild TalesInequality, injustice and the demands of the world we live in cause stress and depression for many people. Some of them, however, explode. This is a movie about those people. Vulnerable in the face of a reality that shifts and suddenly turns unpredictable, the characters of Wild Tales cross the thin line that divides civilization and barbarism. A lover’s betrayal, a return to the repressed past and the violence woven into everyday encounters drive the characters to madness as they cede to the undeniable pleasure of losing control. Been riding buzz from Cannes 2014, through to its nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, through to general word-of-mouth amongst peers. A satirical Argentinian anthology, I believe it is equally hilarious and deranged.

Danny CollinsAl Pacino stars as aging 1970s rocker Danny Collins, who can’t give up his hard-living ways. But when his manager (Christopher Plummer) uncovers a 40 year-old undelivered letter written to him by John Lennon, he decides to change course and embarks on a heartfelt journey to rediscover his family, find true love and begin a second act. I hadn’t even heard about this until I learned it was already out. Intriguing, but not on the priority list.

Weekly Recommendation: Woman in Gold is strong, but this is a pretty good week in the wake of Fury Road. I am really looking forward to Spy and Wild Tales. 

May 202015


Directed by Simon Curtis (My Week With Marilyn), from a debut screenplay from award-winning playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell, Woman in Gold is based on the extraordinary true story of Maria Altmann, an elderly Jewish refugee living in Los Angeles who fought the Austrian government to reclaim Gustav Klimt’s iconic painting of her aunt, ‘Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I’, stripped of all identity and re-named ‘Woman in Gold’, after it was confiscated from her relatives by the Nazis in Vienna just prior to World War II. Learn more about the story and why I recommend it this week after the jump.

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May 142015

Mad Max Fury Road

30 years after leaving Mad Max stranded in the mediocre wasteland of Beyond Thunderdome, director George Miller finally takes a break from dancing penguins and talking farm animals to reignite the franchise that launched him (and Mel Gibson) into the global zeitgeist. But has Mad Max: Fury Road come three decades too late, fated to be ignored by the Fast and the Furious loving crowd of 2015? My review after the jump.

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May 142015


In cinemas this week: Mad Max: Fury Road, When Marnie Was There and A Royal Night Out.

Mad Max: Fury RoadGeorge Miller gears up for another post-apocalyptic action adventure with Fury Road, the fourth outing in the Mad Max film series. Charlize Theron stars alongside Tom Hardy, with Zoe Kravitz, Adelaide Clemens, and Rosie Huntington Whiteley heading up the supporting cast. What can one say? I cannot wait to see this. While such hyperbolic praise can often be tiring, I have personally found the barrage of ‘masterpiece’ claims fascinating. Could it really be this good? I will find out on Saturday. It is sitting on a historic Rotten Tomatoes score and if it contains half as much of the energy and lunacy as I have been led to believe, I am going to be a very satisfied film nerd.

When Marnie Was ThereSent from her foster home in the city one summer to a sleepy town by the sea in Hokkaido, Anna dreams her days away among the marshes. She believes she’s outside the invisible magic circle to which most people belong – and shuts herself off from everyone around her, wearing her “ordinary face”. Anna never expected to meet a friend like Marnie, who does not judge Anna for being just what she is. But no sooner has Anna learned the loveliness of friendship than she begins to wonder about her newfound friend. Based on the novel by Joan G. Robinson, When Marnie Was There is the newest film from Studio Ghibli, and the second feature film by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, the director of The Secret World of Arrietty. I have almost caught up with all of Studio Ghibli’s films. I expect I will see this eventually, but it might be on DVD.

A Royal Night OutOn V.E. Day in 1945, as peace extends across Europe, Princesses Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) and Margaret (Bel Powley) are allowed out to join the celebrations. It is a night full of excitement, danger and the first flutters of romance.

Weekly Recommendation: Fury Road. Hell, if it is this good see it twice. 

May 132015


When I heard that novelist and screenwriter Alex Garland was adding director to his resume, I was in. Garland is a frequent collaborator with Danny Boyle – he wrote the screenplay for arguably two of Boyle’s best films in 28 Days Later and Sunshine and his novel The Beach was adapted into a film directed by Boyle. Ex Machina is a very assured debut work, and this is because he is working with his own ideas and he has learned how to express them cinematically having worked with great filmmakers like Boyle and Kenneth Lonergan (Never Let Me Go). Ex Machina is a twisty, engaging sci-fi thriller that ultimately falls short of the great genre works despite being a triple threat of inventive ideas, filmmaking craft and commendable performances.

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May 112015


Anna (voiced in the English-language version by Hailee Steinfeld) is pretty down on herself. We don’t really know why, but she wants to hide herself away from the world. Her worried foster-mother sends her to stay with relatives (the Oiwas) in rural Hokkaido, hoping it will somehow help. In the countryside Anna discovers a lot more than fresh air. When Marnie Was There is reviewed after the jump.

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