May 102015

After playing at Sundance earlier in the year, Unexpected has been announced as part of the Sydney Film Festival programme.

The synopsis as per IMDB is as follows

An inner-city high school teacher discovers she is pregnant at the same time as one of her most promising students and the two develop an unlikely friendship while struggling to navigate their unexpected pregnancies.

I like the look of the trailer, but the film could be treading some well-worn ground with the roles of the characters. However, what excites me is that the film is broaching the topic of working mother’s and the struggle to balance work and life. It’s something most women deal with but it’s not something talked about very often in film. It also touches on having an identity that is more that being a mother, something I know that some women struggle with.

The film is written and directed by Kris Swanberg (Joe Swanberg his her husband) and co-written by Megan Mercier. It stars Cobie Smulders, Anders Holm, Gail Bean and Elizabeth McGovern.

May 062015


The Sydney Film Festival have released the programme for the 62nd edition of the festival, with 251 films screening from 68 different countries.

The 2015 Festival reflects a strong year for Australian cinema, leading with the World Premieres of Ruben Guthrie, Brendan Cowell’s adaptation of his hit; and Neil Armfield’s Holding the Man, staring Ryan Corr, Anthony LaPaglia, Guy Pearce, and Sarah Snook.

Of the 12 titles in the internationally recognised SFF Official Competition – this year worth $62,000, three are Australian, while three are directed by women. Sherpa – the only documentary in the Official Competition is directed by Australian director Jennifer Peedom. It chronicles the uneasy relationship between Sherpa labourers and foreign mountain climbers on Mount Everest.
Other official competition titles include: Sundance hit, Me Earl and the Dying girl; Tehran Taxi (Winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlinale), the third film made in secret from the great Iranian filmmaker and dissident Jafar Panahi since he was banned from filmmaking; and Victoria, a spectacular one-shot film detailing a Berlin bank robbery and the aftermath created by German director Sebastian Schipper.

Direct from Cannes @ SFF – Japanese director Hirozaku Kore-ada’s Our Little Sister screens in Cannes’ Official Selection. Both Arabian Nights, director Miguel Gomes’ epic follow-up to Tabu, and American indie comedy Dope screen in Directors’ Fortnight. Amy, Asif Kapadia’s (Senna) documentary about Amy Winehouse, will have a midnight screening at Cannes; and Sembene!, a documentary about the great African filmmaker, screens in Cannes Classics.

The festival sections include:
Freak Me Out! – the Festival’s horror, cult, macabre and extreme arthouse film programme.
Sounds on Screen - illuminating stories from around the world about the creators and creation of music.
Focus on South Africa – illuminating stories from around the world about the creators present a snapshot of South Africa’s most vibrant film offerings.
International Documentaries – today’s documentary makers tackle the controversial and traditional with verve, respect and expertise.

Not sure where to start? We offer 10 suggestions after the jump.

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May 062015


A very interesting week. Finally. Out in cinemas: Clouds of Sils Maria, Ex Machina, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, Pitch Perfect 2 and The Re-write.

Clouds of Sils MariaMy #22 film of 2014. Set in the gorgeous Swiss Alps a veteran stage star Maria (Juliette Binoche) and her assistant Valentine (Kristen Stewart) hide out as she prepares for her latest play – the same one that made her famous as a young woman, but the opposing ‘older’ role. Unable to identify with this character, due to her own concerns about aging and being unable to adapt this character into a new context, she turns to Valentine for advice on the actress taking on her old role (Chloe Grace Moretz), challenging her to rehearse the role with her at length. Tension mounts when Maria is disagreeable with what Valentine brings to the role. As the material and their relationship begins to merge, this takes a Persona-esque twist that is quite a hook. This is a very pretty and bonkers look at performance as role, textual interpretation influenced by age (and how measures of age in the business have changed) and 21st Century ‘celebrity’, and the opposition of personal privacy vs. public openness. All three women excel, but Stewart’s performance is her best and one of the best I saw in 2014.

Ex MachinaAlex Garland, writer of 28 Days Later and Sunshine, makes his directorial debut with the stylish and cerebral thriller Ex Machina. Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson), a programmer at an internet-search giant, wins a competition to spend a week at the private mountain estate of the company’s brilliant and reclusive CEO, Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac). Upon his arrival, Caleb learns that Nathan has chosen him to be the human component in a Turing Test – charging him with evaluating the capabilities, and ultimately the consciousness, of Nathan’s latest experiment in artificial intelligence. That experiment is Ava (Alicia Vikander), a breathtaking A.I. whose emotional intelligence proves more sophisticated–and more deceptive–than the two men could have imagined. I really like Alex Garland’s screenplays, and I am completely on board with this fascinating idea. Reviews have been very positive, plus that excellent cast is in fine form.

Kurt Cobain: Montage of HeckKurt Cobain, lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter of Nirvana, remains an icon 20 years after his death. Here, we take a journey through Cobain’s life and his career with Nirvana through the lens of his home movies, recordings, artwork, photography, and journals. As a muso and a Nirvana fan I definitely want to see this.

Pitch Perfect 2The Barden Bellas enter an international a cappella competition which no American team has ever won. The sequel to the surprise hit, which I rather enjoyed. Elizabeth Banks directs, which is interesting, but I just can’t bring myself to sitting through this one. 

The Re-writeOnce upon a time, Keith Michaels (Hugh Grant) was an Award-winning Hollywood screenwriter, but divorce and a string of unsuccessful films have left him with nothing but bad debts and blank pages. So when his agent arranges a job as guest screenwriting professor at a remote university in upstate New York, a desperate Keith can’t say no. Initially hoping to give minimal effort to actual teaching so he can focus on his next script, Keith unexpectedly finds himself becoming invested in his students lives, including Holly (Marisa Tomei), a single mom looking to start her own new chapter. The Rewrite also stars J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney, Chris Elliott and Bella Heathcote.

Weekly Recommendation: There’s too much good stuff out this week. I am thinking a weekend of Ex Machina, Montage of Heck and a second look at Clouds of Sils Maria is on the cards. 

May 052015

The Salvation

Just about every possible narrative has been covered by the Western genre over the years. It is one of the oldest of film genres. 21st Century cinema has seen a selection of outstanding revisionist westerns, including films like No Country for Old Men that fit into the post WWII-set sub genre.

But, through bold productions like HBO’s Deadwood and Kelly Reichhardt’s Meek’s Cutoff the 19th Century west is still dared to be explored. The Salvation, written and directed by one of the four signatories of the Danish Dogme95 film movement, Kristian Levring, is a new addition. It is a fantastic-looking, old-fashioned but distinctly European flavoured brand of the bloody and brutal revenge western, with an authentic recreation of the 1870′s American Wild West on the cusp of an oil boom. It is an efficient and thrilling 90 minutes.

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May 042015


Mission Impossible - films that felt so familiar, but films it turns out, I hardly remembered them at all. I’ve watched the first three films in the series at least twice each, and yet I couldn’t recall with detail, the plot of any of them if you asked. I think it’s the genre elements which are easy to latch onto, but the specifics of theses films, not so much. For the first time in at least 8 years, I rewatched the first 3 films in the series. Thoughts and **spoilers** after the jump.

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May 022015


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


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


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.