Feb 222015


Into the Woods, based on Stephen Sondheim’s musical, is one that has established a solid and proclaimed reputation among the theatre community and corresponding gathered a large number of musical fans. Rob Marshall’s adaption is a brighter star in the category of modern musical films, but while it remains faithful to most of the original material, it suffers from an unimaginative and rather bland retelling from stage to screen.

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Feb 212015


Les Combattants [The Fighters] or Love at First Fight internationally, is a French indie romantic comedy/drama with brains and ideas, despite the corny alternative title. It won the FIPRESCI Prize after screening to critical acclaim in the Director’s Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival last year. Find out why we recommend it at the upcoming Alliance Francaise French Film Festival after the jump: Continue reading »

Feb 192015


So Andy and I have made our Oscar predictions – some winners seem so certain, while with certain categories, it feels like it is up to the toss of a coin. Feel free to publicly shame us when it turns out we are completely wrong with all of our predictions (though we do differ on some).

After the jump see our picks for who we think will win the Oscar and who (out of those nominated) we think should take it home.

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Feb 182015

Jupiter Ascending 1

A house cleaner is actually space royalty and Channing Tatumn is an interplanetary warrior-wolf man with moon boots. The Wachowskis (Cloud Atlas, The Matrix) bring back the crazy with Jupiter Ascending, a film that I had a heck of a lot of fun with, sometimes at the film’s expensive. Review after the jump.

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Feb 182015


In cinemas this week: Jupiter Ascending, Rosewater and Project Almanac.

Jupiter Ascending - From the streets of Chicago to the far-flung galaxies whirling through space, “Jupiter Ascending” tells the story of Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), who was born under a night sky, with signs predicting she was destined for great things. Now grown, Jupiter dreams of the stars but wakes up to the cold reality of a job cleaning other people’s houses and an endless run of bad breaks. Only when Caine (Channing Tatum), a genetically engineered ex-military hunter, arrives on Earth to track her down does Jupiter begin to glimpse the fate that has been waiting for her all along – her genetic signature marks her as next in line for an extraordinary inheritance that could alter the balance of the cosmos. I am a defender of the Wachowski’s divisive but brilliant Speed Racer and loved Cloud Atlas from a couple of years ago, but this was bad. I became numb as to what was going on plot-wise, what was actually happening in the chaotic action sequences and what all of this confusing hodgepodge of design decisions ultimately added up to. A very bad cast.

Rosewater – Based on The New York Times best-selling memoir “Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival,” written by Maziar Bahari. The film marks the directorial debut of “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, and stars Gael García Bernal. Rosewater follows the Tehran-born Bahari, a broadcast journalist with Canadian citizenship. In June 2009, Bahari returned to Iran to interview Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who was the prime challenger to president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As Mousavi’s supporters rose up to protest Ahmadinejad’s victory declaration hours before the polls closed, Bahari endured personal risk by sending footage of the street riots to the BBC. Bahari was arrested by police and tortured and interrogated over the next 118 days. With Bahari’s wife leading an international campaign to have her husband freed, and Western media outlets keeping the story alive, Iranian authorities released Bahari on $300,000 bail and the promise he would act as a spy for the government. Prior to Bahari’s capture this is an interesting story, but the monotonous questioning, and claustrophobic imprisonment, reveals that Stewart isn’t a great director. Really quite tiresome, and disappointing. Sam reviews at the link.

Project Almanac - A brilliant high school student and his friends uncover blueprints for a mysterious device with limitless potential, inadvertently putting lives in danger. Has made quite a bit of money in the US, but looks like an inferior version of sleeper hit Chronicle.

As I did not care for either Jupiter Ascending or Rosewater I won’t be recommending either of them. But Sam had a different take on Jupiter Ascending. This is the weekend to catch up with the Academy Award nominees ahead of next Monday’s ceremony. Birdman, Selma, Foxcatcher, Still Alice and Citizen Four are all still in cinemas. 

Feb 152015


A huge thanks to Mark Roulston for this review. I was just too tied-up to find the time…[Ed]
It’s impossible to sit down in the cinema for Sam Taylor-Johnson’s adaptation of 50 Shades of Grey without carrying a certain level of expectation in with you, such is the footprint left on pop culture by novelist E.L. James’s controversial books. Like similarly popular or notorious adaptations the film is essentially reviewer-proof, however the talent both in front of and behind the camera – aside perhaps from the two leads who will be unfamiliar to many – suggests an effort to legitimise the trashy, oft-parodied source material.

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Feb 142015


The Alliance Française French Film Festival is back for its 26th season, this time with 49 fantastic features, which will take place across 8 cities at Palace Cinema venues from early March until mid-April.

Launching the Festival will be Gemma Bovery, a beguiling romantic comedy-drama from renowned director Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel), which had its world première at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. Based on the popular graphic novel by Posy Simmonds, it is an endearing film about the dangers of stirring passions.

The Festival ill close with a modern French classic, Paris, Je T’aime that will take audiences through the arrondissements of Paris, with 20 superb short films inspired by the subject of love, from acclaimed directors such as Olivier Assayas, Bruno Podalydès, Gus Van Sant and Ethan and Joel Cohen.

Highlights from the programme include:

Breathe (Dir. Mélanie Laurent)
Cast: Lou de Laâge, Joséphine Japy, Isabelle Carré & Claire Keim
Acclaimed actress Mélanie Laurent takes the director’s chair for this emotionally seductive and hugely affecting drama about an adolescent friendship perched on the brink of obsession. When Charlie, an attractive but self-doubting 17-year-old girl meets the charismatic, forthright and unruly Sarah, they immediately form an intense and exhilarating bond. Sarah offers both companionship and much-needed support for Charlie whilst her unstable mother copes badly with impending divorce. But their inseparable, idyllic existence soon steers into dangerous territory.

Girlhood (Dir. Céline Sciamma)
Cast: Karidja Touré, Assa Sylla, Lindsay Karamoh & Marietou Touré
A story of female empowerment set in the tough neighbourhoods of Paris. Marieme is a shy 16-year-old who lives with her frequently absent mother, a domineering older brother, and two younger sisters who mostly fall to her responsibility. Left behind at high school where she’s told her grades are too poor to continue, Mariame is soon lured out of her shell by three vivacious neighborhood teens. She quickly adopts their flashier look and adapts to their bold, often reckless behavior, making both foolish and brave choices as she struggles towards independence.

The New Girlfriend (Dir. François Ozon)
Cast: Romain Duris, Anaïs Demoustier, Raphaël Personnaz, Isild Le Besco, & Aurore Clément
Effortlessly fusing the best of Hitchcock and Almodóvar, this superb psychological drama owes its origins to a Ruth Rendell short story. Claire is grieving the loss of her very best friend, who has left behind a husband, David, and a newborn baby. But during an unannounced visit, she is shocked to discover David nuzzling his infant whilst wearing his dead wife’s clothes. Unfazed, David explains that his former wife was aware of this particular idiosyncrasy and over time, Claire overcomes her initial reaction and helps David to create his own female persona to inhabit.
These are the films I am keen to see from the line-up: Before the Winter Chill, Breathe, Eden (which I saw at TIFF and really want to see again), Girlhood (one of the best films of 2014), The New Girlfriend, Ella L’Adore, Love at First Fight, Once Upon a Forrest, Samba, The Gate and Tokyo Fiancée.
For the full programme and information about dates,venues and tickets, head to the official festival website: http://www.affrenchfilmfestival.org

You can also find the festival on Twitter @AFFFF2015