Jul 182015

We are just over half way through the year, but I thought I would reflect on the year so far from the perspective of performance. I expected to struggle to find performances I loved, because it hasn’t struck me as a year defined by great acting – many of my favourite films so far have been documentaries or been great for other reasons – but there have actually been a lot. I have seen each of these films for the first time in 2015, so if there is a great performance missing here, I may have caught it last year. These films have either had a release in Australian cinemas, screened at a festival I have attended, or had a DTV release and bypassed cinemas. I feel all of these performances have had a direct bearing on the success of the film.


Let me know what some of your favourite performances are in the comments. Mine are listed below in order that my eyes have witnessed them. I will note the standout, and that is David Oyelowo in Selma. 

David Oyelowo – Selma

Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything

Joaquin Phoenix and Katherine Waterston – Inherent Vice

Michelle Monaghan – Fort Bliss

Paul Dano and Elizabeth Banks – Love & Mercy

Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain – A Most Violent Year

Jack O’Connell – ‘71

Lily James – Cinderella

Jude Law – Black Sea

Mads Mikkelsen and Jeffrey Dean Morgan – The Salvation

Tessa Thompson – Dear White People

Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker – Spring

Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander – Ex Machina

Carey Mulligan and Matthias Schoenaerts – Far From the Madding Crowd

Charlize Theron – Mad Max: Fury Road

Tommy Lee Jones – The Homesman

Guy Pearce and Kevin Corrigan – Results

Michael Shannon – 99 Homes

Elmer Back – Eisenstein in Guanajuatro

Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori and Kiersey Clemons – Dope

Laia Costa and Frederick Lau – Victoria

Nina Hoss and Ronald Zehrfeld – Phoenix

Luisa Cruz – The Arabian Nights: Volume 2

Amy Poehler (voice) – Inside Out

Jada Pinkett-Smith and Channing Tatum – Magic Mike XXL

Dan Stevens – The Guest

Ronit Elkabetz – Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem

Jul 162015


Thanks to eOne, we have 3 x DVD copies of ’71 to give away – available on Digital, DVD, & Blu-Ray from July 22nd

Official Synopsis:

Starring up-and-coming talent Jack O’Connell (Unbroken, Starred Up), this exhilarating, gripping thriller re-creates “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland through the eyes of a young British soldier, who is accidentally abandoned by his unit following a terrifying riot on the streets of Belfast in 1971. Unable to tell friend from foe, the raw recruit must survive the night alone and find his way to safety through a disorienting, alien and deadly landscape.

Check out the An Online Universe review of ’71 here. (spoiler – we really liked it)

To Win Tell us what your favourite post-WWII combat/war film is. Send your answers, along with your name and postal address to sam@anonlineuniverse.com by 9pm on Sunday 26 July, 2015.

Check out the terms & conditions of the competition after the jump.

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Jul 152015


A suit that shrinks a man to the size of an ant, but gives the wearer superhuman strength. There’s a reason Dr. Pym (Michael Douglas) buried the technology many years ago; but now the threat of it being released is real. Dr. Pym has just the man in mind to prevent it happening. Marvel’s Ant-Man is reviewed after the jump.

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Jul 152015


In cinemas this week: Ant-Man, Paper Towns, Insidious: Chapter 3, Ruben Guthrie, Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem and Women He’s Undressed

Ant-Man – The next evolution of the Marvel Cinematic Universe brings a founding member of The Avengers to the big screen for the first time with Marvel Studios’ “Ant-Man.” Armed with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, master thief Scott Lang must embrace his inner-hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, protect the secret behind his spectacular Ant-Man suit from a new generation of towering threats. Against seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Pym and Lang must plan and pull off a heist that will save the world. Reactions are on the side of positive, with most claiming this PG-Marvel has a lot of charm. Noticeably less stakes and world peril might mean it doesn’t leave much to get too excited about.

Paper Towns – Adapted from the bestselling novel by author John Green (“The Fault in Our Stars”), PAPER TOWNS is a coming-of-age story centering on Quentin and his enigmatic neighbour Margo, who loved mysteries so much she became one. After taking him on an all-night adventure through their hometown, Margo suddenly disappears–leaving behind cryptic clues for Quentin to decipher. The search leads Quentin and his quick-witted friends on an exhilarating adventure that is equal parts hilarious and moving. Ultimately, to track down Margo, Quentin must find a deeper understanding of true friendship–and true love. The YA crowd will likely go nuts for it, but as I have no knowledge of the source material I am going to skip it. It does provide a star vehicle for Nat Wolff (pretty decent in the disappointing Palo Alto).

Insidious Chapter 3 The new chapter in the terrifying horror series is written and directed by franchise co-creator Leigh Whannell. This chilling prequel, set before the haunting of the Lambert family, reveals how gifted psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) reluctantly agrees to use her ability to contact the dead in order to help a teenage girl (Stefanie Scott) who has been targeted by a dangerous supernatural entity. Sounds like it is a perfectly decent ‘third film in a modern horror franchise’. The first film relied heavily on jump-scare tactics but was serviceable. With a franchise co-creator at the helm it sounds like there is some thematic depth here in amongst the frights.

Ruben Guthrie – Life is good for ad man Ruben Guthrie – he leads a party boy lifestyle, has a model fiancée and lives in a house on the water. He’s at the top of his game, until some drunken skylarking lands Ruben at the bottom of his infinity pool, lucky to be alive. His mum hits the panic button, and then his fiancée leaves him, but not before issuing him one final challenge: If Ruben can do one year without a drink, she’ll give him another chance. Ruben Guthrie is the story of one man not only battling the bottle, but the city that won’t let him put it down. The Opening Night selection at the Sydney Film Festival is rather obnoxious stuff with a nip of Sydney yuppie-culture truth that offers brief contemplation of forgiveness. But the sickening levels of product placement, sketchy stereotypical characters,  forced and quickly ignored side-character drama, and thin analysis of the mass addiction vs. mass abstinence struggle drag the desired laugh quota to all-but nothing. I expect this is a pretty decent stage show, because there is a story here, but this film flubs it.

Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem – An Israeli woman (Ronit Elkabetz) seeking to finalize her divorce from her cruel and manipulative husband finds herself effectively put on trial by her country’s religiously-based marriage laws, in this riveting drama from sibling directors Shlomi and Ronit Elkabetz (Late Marriage and The Band’s Visit) who is also one of Israeli cinema’s most acclaimed actresses. In Israel there is neither civil marriage nor civil divorce; only rabbis can legalize a marriage or its dissolution, which is only possible with the husband’s full consent. Viviane Amsalem has been applying for a divorce for three years but her husband Elisha (Simon Ebkarian of Casino Royale and Persepolis), will not agree. His cold intransigence, Viviane’s determination to fight for her freedom, and the ambiguous role of the judges shape a procedure in which tragedy vies with absurdity, and where everything is brought out for judgment, apart from the initial request. Reviews have been very strong and the film received a Best Foreign Language Film nomination at the Golden Globes. Very much looking forward to it.

Women He’s Undressed – Gillian Armstrong’s (Unfolding Florence, SFF 2006) latest work is a stylish celebration of an unsung Australian cinema hero, costume designer Orry-Kelly. The three-time Oscar winner worked on countless films during Hollywood’s golden age, dressing stars like Marilyn Monroe (Some Like It Hot), Shirley MacLaine (Irma la Douce) and Natalie Wood (Gypsy). His costumes helped shape the characters on screen, empowering female performances, such as Bette Davis in Jezebel. An outspoken figure, Orry-Kelly was uncompromising in his sexuality, at a time when the film business was deeply conservative. This classy documentary, packed with clips and interviews, traces the life and work of this under-appreciated Aussie genius.

Weekly Recommendation: From the films going wide – Ant-Man. From those that will be tough to hunt down – Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem. 

Jul 132015

Well this looks fun! There’s a heap of sass and a whole lot of style in the trailer for THE DRESSMAKER, the upcoming Australian film from writer director Jocelyn Moorhouse (PROOF, HOW TO MAKE AN AMERICAN QUILT). Adapted from Australian author Rosalie Ham’s 2000 novel of the same name, THE DRESSMAKER has an absolutely stacked cast, with Kate Winslet rocking a great Australian accent in the lead role. Kudos to the hair & make-up team who somehow made the gorgeous and talented Sarah Snook look decidedly plain. I am really looking forward to this film.

Official Synopsis:
Based on the best-selling novel by Rosalie Ham, THE DRESSMAKER is a bittersweet, comedy-drama set in early 1950s Australia. Tilly Dunnage (Kate Winslet), a beautiful and talented misfit, after many years working as a dressmaker in exclusive Parisian fashion houses, returns home to the tiny middle-of-nowhere town of Dungatar to right the wrongs of the past. Not only does she reconcile with her ailing, eccentric mother Molly (Judy Davis) and unexpectedly falls in love with the pure-hearted Teddy (Liam Hemsworth), but armed with her sewing machine and incredible sense of style, she transforms the women of the town and in doing so gets sweet revenge on those who did her wrong.
THE DRESSMAKER is released in cinemas October 22, 2015
For more information, check out the film’s Facebook page.

Jul 122015


It’s MIFF time again. The festival that goes longer than almost any other, and as a result has a programme littered with hidden gems – you just have to be able to find them. MIFF one-upped the Sydney Film Festival (SFF) in the Cannes stakes this year, getting several big titles such as The Lobster, Chronic, and Louder than bombs. There are also a couple of my favourite TIFF14 titles playing at MIFF that did not screen at SFF. I highly recommend you add Tales of the Grim Sleeper and Hungry Hearts to your schedule MIFF goers.

There are a lot of films playing at MIFF that have releases within a few months of the festival. If you want to be smart about your scheduling, make sure you check out the release dates for the more mainstream fare. It’s an easy way to open up spots and see something you otherwise wouldn’t get the chance to see.

After the jump I’ve picked 10 films from the programme that I would love to see if I were going for the entirety of MIFF. I’ve listed ever film An Online Universe can recommend from the programme, and have provided links to those that we have reviewed. I’ve also posted our (Andrew & Sam’s) schedule for the 3 days that we will be attending MIFF. Check it all out after the jump.

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Jul 092015


Magic Mike XXL is an almost euphoric experience, and against all odds (considering I am not at all the target demographic) it has fast become one of my favourite films of 2015 far. It is directed by Gregory Jacobs, a long-time collaborator with Steven Soderbergh (Magic Mike, Side Effects, Ocean’s Eleven), serving as a producer and assistant director on many of his films. Writer/producer Reid Carolin, who has worked with lead star Channing Tatum on a number of projects including 21 Jump Street, returns for the screenplay. I read that 96% of the film’s US audience in its [disappointing] opening week were women. This doesn’t surprise me, but my goal here is to convince anyone and everyone to see this film.

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Jul 082015


In cinemas this week: Magic Mike XXL and Madame Bovary. 

Magic Mike XXL – Picking up the story three years after Mike bowed out of the stripper life at the top of his game, “Magic Mike XXL” finds the remaining Kings of Tampa likewise ready to throw in the towel. But they want to do it their way: burning down the house in one last blow-out performance in Myrtle Beach, and with legendary headliner Magic Mike sharing the spotlight with them. On the road to their final show, with whistle stops in Jacksonville and Savannah to renew old acquaintances and make new friends, Mike and the guys learn some new moves and shake off the past in surprising ways. While it perhaps doesn’t have the thematic weight of Soderbergh’s Magic Mike, which was an indie film about the pursuit of the American Dream with character-driven drama, XXL offers something completely different. I am wracking my brain to find a film that has entertained me more this year. Soderbergh, serving as 1AD, DP and editor, has his stamp all over it. It looks amazing and all of the performances, including the very involved Jada Pinkett Smith, Amber Heard and Andie Macdowell, are superb.

Madame Bovary – Set in Normandy, France, this is the classic story of Emma Bovary, a young beauty who impulsively marries small-town doctor, Charles Bovary, to leave her father’s pig farm far behind. But after being introduced to the glamorous world of high society, she soon becomes bored with her stodgy husband and mundane life, and seeks prestige and excitement outside the bonds of marriage. I understand that an adaptation of the classic novel is a tough enterprise, but this looks like a dry effort, despite what I expect to be strong work from a cast led by Mia Wasikowska.

Weekly Recommendation: Admittedly, my expectations weren’t sky high, but Magic Mike XXL surprised me. It has further appreciated on reflection, because it is so refreshingly balanced – racially diverse and wonderfully female inclusive – while being a near-faultless ‘last hoorah bromance’ road trip film.  I genuinely believe it is one of the year’s best and most entertaining films.  Full review to come.