Apr 132015


Black Sea is a claustrophobic heist thriller directed by Kevin McDonald (director of Touching the Void, The Last King of Scotland and How I Live Now) from an original screenplay by Dennis Kelly, and featuring an all-star British and Russian cast. Set almost predominantly on board a submarine this is a film about bitter and desperate men placed in physically and mentally stressful situations. The submarine film is a genre all of its own, and this will absolutely satisfy fans. It is very intense, and the wringing of suspense is outstanding. There are several sequences, and I won’t discuss them here, with the capacity to give heart palpitations.

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Apr 122015


Imagine a life where you don’t age, living but never getting any older. You stay young and healthy, while those around you grow old and die. Decades pass, the world changes and yet on the outside, you remain the same. Is this a life you would want to live? Is it a gift, or is it a heavy burden to carry? The Age of Adaline is reviewed after the jump.

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Apr 102015


It Follows has been at the centre of discussion since the Cannes Film Festival last year. David Robert Mitchell’s (Myth of the American Sleepover) film screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival last July and then at the Toronto International Film Festival in September to positive buzz and critical acclaim. It’s expansion from very limited screens to 1,000+ in the US has made it the independent hit of 2015 to date, and for good reason. It is an intelligent, accomplished feat of claustrophobic horror filmmaking with the capacity to transcend the cinema environment, get under a viewer’s skin and continue to terrify long after the credits.

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Apr 082015


In cinemas this week - Mommy, The Salt of the Earth, Black Sea, X+Y and The Longest Ride. 

MommyA feisty widowed single mom finds herself burdened with the full-time custody of her unpredictable 15-year-old ADHD son. As they struggle to make ends meet, Kyla, the peculiar new neighbor across the street, offers her help. Together, they find a new sense of balance, and hope is regained. The BEST film yet from Quebecois wonder kid Xavier Dolan (Laurence Anyways and Tom at the Farm – #12 film of 2014), this is a risky film of technical audacity, enormous emotional resonance, and outstanding acting. This was my #2 film of 2014.

The Salt of the Earth - For the last 40 years, the photographer Sebastião Salgado has been travelling through the continents, in the footsteps of an ever-changing humanity. He has witnessed some of the major events of our recent history; international conflicts, starvation and exodus. He is now embarking on the discovery of pristine territories, of wild fauna and flora, and of grandiose landscapes as part of a huge photographic project, which is a tribute to the planet’s beauty. Sebastião Salgado’s life and work are revealed to us by his son, Juliano, who went with him during his last travels, and by Wim Wenders, himself a photographer. I was floored by this film – review at the link.

Black SeaA suspenseful adventure thriller directed by Academy Award winner Kevin Macdonald, centering on a rogue submarine captain (two-time Academy Award nominee Jude Law) who pulls together a misfit crew to go after a sunken treasure rumored to be lost in the depths of the Black Sea. As greed and desperation take control onboard their claustrophobic vessel, the increasing uncertainty of the mission causes the men to turn on each other to fight for their own survival. I like Kevin Macdonald’s films and this looks Sunshine in a submarine, which makes it immediately appealing.

X+YThis heart-warming and life-affirming story follows the unconventional and hilarious relationship between student and teacher – whose roles are often reversed – and the unfathomable experience of first love – even when you don’t understand what love is. This screened at TIFF immediately after one of the films I watched, and while sheltering from a storm I spotted Asa Butterfield on the red carpet. I believe this is a really heartwarming story. Part of my weekend viewing plan.

The Longest RideBased on the bestselling novel by master storyteller Nicholas Sparks, The Longest Ride centers on the star-crossed love affair between Luke, a former champion bull rider looking to make a comeback, and Sophia, a college student who is about to embark upon her dream job in New York City’s art world. As conflicting paths and ideals test their relationship, Sophia and Luke make an unexpected and feateful connection with Ira, whose memories of his own decades-long romance with his beloved wife deeply inspire the young couple. Spanning generations and two intertwining love stories, The Longest Ride explores the challenges and infinite rewards of enduring love. Another one?

Weekly Recommendation: Potentially one of the strongest cinema weeks of the year – even with the latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation – if Black Sea and X+Y live up to their…potential. Mommy is amazing. 5 stars. I still find it hard to come up with the words to describe that experience at Sydney Film Festival last year.  Salt of the Earth, nominated for Best Documentary at the Oscars, has a very limited release but well worth seeking out a session. 

Apr 062015


The Spanish Film Festival returns to Australian screens during April and May, with a selection of 38 Spanish language films.

The festival opens with Spanish blockbuster Spanish Affair, a comedic tale mischievously pokes fun at cultural differences as it tracks a young southerner who tenaciously seeks to win the heart of a Basque girl. The festival will close with Damián Szifrón’s Oscar-nominated Wild Tales, a revenge film composed of six rebellious vignettes, which include a deadly case of road rage and a wedding gone very wrong.

Some of the highlights from the programme include:

Marshland - the period police drama was the recipient of 10 Goya Awards including Best Film, Best Director and Best Actor. Set in 1980 in the repressed southern marshland town of Villafranco del Guadalquivir, an eerie place where everyone holds their cards close to their chest.

The Unexpected Life - some of Spain’s finest actors Javier Cámara (Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed, Talk To Her) and Raul Arévalo (Family United, Ghost Graduation) take to the bustling streets of Manhattan as they learn what it means to live and love as a Spaniard in New York City.

They Are All Dead - Elena Anaya (The Skin I Live In) plays Lupe, an agoraphobic Spanish/Mexican former poprocker who is trapped by memories of her youth, and especially by the death of her brother Diego. She’s also having problems connecting with her son. When her mother (Angélica Aragón) discovers she is dying, she is determined to set things to right and On the Day of the Dead, she asks for her departed son Diego’s help…and he responds.
What: The 2015 Spanish Film Festival
When: April-May
Where: Palace cinemas in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Canberra, Brisbane & Adelaide
Tickets & full programme: http://www.spanishfilmfestival.com/

Apr 052015


The Salt of the Earth, which won the Special Prize in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, Best Documentary at the 40th Cesar Awards and was nominated for Best Documentary at the 87th Academy Awards, portrays the works of world-renowned Brazillian social documentary photographer and photojournalist Sebastião Salgado. Continue reading »

Apr 052015


Sorry for being a little late with my March round-up. Truth is I only watched 18 films during March, and while there were a couple of gems, almost all of my good viewing was from rewatches, both on the big and small screen. Why only 18 films in March? Well I was busy getting married – that’s a good enough excuse, right? While away at our wedding location we only watched one film and that was the utterly delightful Paddington. Check out my full round-up after the jump. Continue reading »

Apr 012015

From Fast & Furious 6, but so cool.

New to cinemas this week: Furious 7, The Book of Life, The Duff, Samba, Spongebob Squarepants: Sponge Out of Water, Tinkerbell: Legend of the Neverbeast and Humpback Whales 3D. Obviously, school holidays are upon us. Plenty for the kids with nothing better to do.

Furious 7 - Continuing the global exploits in the unstoppable franchise built on speed, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Dwayne Johnson lead the returning cast of Furious 7. James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring) directs this chapter of the hugely successful series that also welcomes back favorites Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Elsa Pataky and Lucas Black. Almost certainly a lock for the top 10 highest grossing of the year, but I haven’t seen a film in this franchise since 2 Fast 2 Furious so it is all lost on me. Still, I believe 4-6 are all pretty good.

The Book of Life, a vibrant fantasy-adventure, tells the legend of Manolo, a conflicted hero and dreamer who sets off on an epic quest through magical, mythical and wondrous worlds in order to rescue his one true love and defend his village. Produced by Guillermo Deo Toro and featuring a voice cast including Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana and Channing Tatum, this has been well-received internationally.

Samba - Samba, a migrant from Senegal to France, works as a dish washer in a hotel. Things get worse for him when, because of a bureaucratic slip-up, he lands in a detention and on release he is ordered to leave France. With the help of an immigration officer Alice he fights to stay in France. The all-star French cast (Omar Sy, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Tahar Rahim) are the primary draw-cards here and this looks like quite a pleasant drama. From the directors of HUGE hit The Intouchables. 

The Duff - Bianca (Mae Whitman) is a content high school senior whose world is shattered when she learns the student body knows her as ‘The DUFF’ (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) to her prettier, more popular friends (Skyler Samuels & Bianca Santos). Now, despite the words of caution from her favorite teacher (Ken Jeong), she puts aside the potential distraction of her crush, Toby (Nick Eversman), and enlists Wesley (Robbie Amell), a slick but charming jock, to help reinvent herself. To save her senior year from turning into a total disaster, Bianca must find the confidence to overthrow the school’s ruthless label maker Madison (Bella Thorne) and remind everyone that no matter what people look or act like, we are all someone’s DUFF.

Spongebob Squarepants: Sponge Out of Water - SpongeBob SquarePants, the world’s favourite sea dwelling invertebrate, comes ashore to our world for his most super-heroic adventure yet. Reviews have been positive with Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian calling it a “non-stoner stoner film”. Having never experienced the show I can’t do it, but it sounds like fans are going to love it.

Weekly recommendation: A decent teen-centric holiday line-up. I haven’t seen any of these, but I am most interested in The Book of Life. Furious 7 is going to make a lot of money, and I wish I was more caught up with the franchise because it will likely be the perfect long weekend escapism.