Oct 202016


Cafe Society, which premiered at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and opened the festival, is the 47th feature film by Woody Allen. With a budget of $30 million, it is also his most expensive film to date. These days you typically know what you’re going to get from a Woody Allen film, and his distinctive opening credits are immediately a dead giveaway. But, he still seems to possess the capacity to surprise, and the visually splendid Cafe Society is one such example.

With Jesse Eisenberg again standing in as the Woody Allen surrogate (he’s actually done this before in the awful To Rome With Love), Woody turns his lens on 1930’s Hollywood, as a young New Yorker (Eisenberg), trying to make a career out West, finds his dreams dashed when he falls in love with Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), the assistant of his talent agent uncle, Phil (Steve Carrell).  Continue reading »

Oct 042016

Miss Peregrine's

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Dir. Tim Burton)

Based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children follows Jacob (Asa Butterfield) who locates the home for children after following clues given to him by his grandfather (Terence Stamp). Ruled over by the titular Miss Peregrine (a very charismatic Eva Green) the home is a safe place for children who are different from the average child, in rather weird and wonderful ways. All is not good in the world of the peculiar however, and the home’s residents find their safety jeopardised by some rather frightening creatures.

Directed by Tim Burton, the film is very much two completely different beasts. The first half an almost snooze-worthy pile of exposition and explanation about the world and how it all works. There’s also far too much time spent on the relationship between Jacob and his father (Chris O’Dowd), which is rather dull and of almost no consequence to the developments further on. Once you hit the second hour however, the film becomes a creepy and eccentric adventure in supernaturalism and strangeness. A fight sequence between a variety of unnatural beings, set to pumping electronic music, is one of the more entertaining action sequences I’ve seen in some time.

While Burton certainly nails the story’s more bizarre elements, the plodding first hour really lets the film down. Asa Butterfield is also a disappointment – he just doesn’t have the star quality to pull off the role. It’s hard to see who the audience for this film is – it’s far too scary for younger kids, but not scary enough for teens.



The Red Turtle (Dir. Michael Dudok de Wit)

Directed by Michael Dudok de Wit, The Red Turtle is co-production between Wild Bunch and Japan’s famous Studio Ghibli. It is the story of a man who becomes a stranded on an island which is devoid of human life, but filled with various plant and animal life. After several attempts at escape, the man accepts his fate as a castaway, and we observe his life at various stages.

It is the simplicity of The Red Turtle that makes it so powerful. The film is dialogue-less, which serves to remove all distractions from what plays out on-screen. The utterly stunning visuals and beautiful sound design are completely transformative, and you feel as if you are there, watching on in silence. I found the restraint and straightforwardness of the depiction of the life cycle to be incredibly profound, and I was brought to tears several times. I adore this film and I can’t recommend it highly enough – it’s like balm to the soul in these noisy times.



Life, Animated (Dir. Roger Ross Williams)

Owen Suskind was a bubbly young boy until at age three, when he withdrew into his own mind and stopped communicating with others. After many specialist trips Owen was diagnosed as autistic, and his parents are devastated that there was no “quick fix” for their son. While Owen may have stopped talking, his love for all things Disney had never waned, and it was one of the shared activities that the whole family still enjoyed. It turned out that Owen was doing more than just watching the films, he was studying them, processing them, and soon he was using them as a tool to help him both communicate, and understand the world around him.

Owen’s story is told through a tapestry of interviews with friends and family, home movie clips, interviews and interactions with Owen himself, as he and his family are preparing for him to move out of home and into assisted living for the first time. The film also continues some beautiful original animation – the medium he feels at ease with – to bring parts of his story to life. While the film does gloss over some of Owen’s tougher times, it does a reasonably good job at showing the many challenges he and his family face. It’s an inspiring story, and as a film lover, I found it difficult to not feel overwhelmed at the power these films have for Owen and those around him. I may have cried, just once or twice.

By Sam McCosh

Oct 032016


I watched a total of 24 films in September, which was well down on previous months, but I made up for that with TV viewing. I watched 45 episodes of TV. I found viewing in small-bites more relaxing this month, often finding myself unable to commit to a film. But, in finding shows I liked, there was motivation to binge. September was also a bit of a dead month – both theatrically and on home entertainment. Missing Sully was unfortunate, but there wasn’t too much else I was sorry to miss, and most of the home entertainment releases I had already seen. October offers some exciting releases in The Neon Demon, Elle and Hell or High Water and hopefully the chances to see Arrival and American Honey. 

I spent the first three weeks of September working through the epic 2013 Man Booker Prize winner, The Luminaries, which is right up there with A Little Life as the book of the year for me.

On the music front, it was also a weak month. I did enjoy Angel Olsen’s My Woman and Young Thug’s Jeffery, but I struggled to get into Frank Ocean’s highly-anticipated Blonde.

TV was the hero of September. I seemed to enjoy watching other people struggling with life – most specifically in regards to relationships, parenthood and professions. Joe Swanberg’s Easy featured brilliant writing, Catastrophe followed up its hilarious first season with some very unexpected dark turns in its second, while Love was pure addiction. I haven’t yet discovered the pinnacle of Bojack Horseman, but I look forward to working through seasons two & three during October.

Brief thoughts on some of my viewing in September after the jump:

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Sep 292016


Now here is a big-budget Western that genuinely feels epic. The latest film from Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Southpaw), from a screenplay by Nic Pizzolatto (True Detective) and Richard Wenk, is an update of a re-make. John Sturges 1960 film of the same name was an all-star old-west style re-make of Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece, The Seven Samurai (1954). But Fuqua’s effort manages to overcomes the obvious risks of being immediately redundant, being lent a surprising level of distinction with enough touches of genre masters Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah. Find out after the jump why this entertaining and genuinely thrilling shoot-em-up is worthy of a cinema visit.

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Sep 042016


With the Blockbuster season all-but over, typically the Australian Spring months offer up less anticipated, but usually more interesting films. Typically, they include a higher volume of smaller productions (no box-office giants to compete with), and higher-quality international films and documentaries. This year we are privileged to have new films from Paul Verhoeven, David Mackenzie, Amma Assante, Mel Gibson, Andrea Arnold and Denis Villeneuve, amongst others. We’ve picked 12 we’re particularly looking forward to seeing, check them out after the jump.

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Sep 042016


August was quite a tough month so I busied myself with work and found comfort in films. I ended up watching 33, another hefty amount, from a whole assortment of different periods and genres. Dark Horizons’ Garth Franklin set me a viewing challenge before the end of the year – ten ’80s/’90s classics shamefully on my blindspot list. Amongst the ones I have checked off so far: Wargames, Big Trouble in Little China and They Live. 

I also caught up on quite a few films I missed in cinemas (The Meddler, Maggie’s Plan, Miles Ahead and Mia Madre included). Incredibly, this month includes not a single episode of TV.

My favourite books this month were Poirot & Me, David Suchet’s fascinating autobiography about portraying Agatha Christie’s iconic Belgian detective on TV for a quarter of a century, and Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, soon to be adapted into a TV series. If you haven’t watched the trailer things are looking promising.

Thoughts on some of the films I watched in August after the jump.

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Aug 182016

The Shallows Duo

The Shallows is the latest film from Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan, Non-Stop), who has developed a loyal fan-base with his ability to liven-up the tired tropes of mass-appeal genre films. After a trio of Liam Neeson-led shoot-em-up action entries (including the pretty decent Non-Stop, which was effectively an Agatha-Christie-on-a plane) he returns to horror, where he last worked in 2009 with the underrated Orphan. In what is perhaps his best film to date – on the simplest terms Jaws meets 127 Hours – he tells a gripping and visually arresting survival story of a desperate but determined woman clinging to glimpses of hope, and using her substantial wits and capabilities to fix and manoeuvre her injured body, and navigate the safe havens at her disposal. With a game, intense performance from Lively, and some vicious shark take-downs this is a particularly strong entry in the oft-tried sub-genre.

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Aug 092016


July was the month that I decided to take a step back from cinema. It’s not that I love movies any less, it’s just that after 4+ years of regularly attending screenings/festivals and writing about movies, I really need a break. I am still watching films, but only those films I really want to (no obligation viewings for me), but I am not really writing at the moment. I have to admit it’s kind of freeing, particularly considering how sub-par this blockbuster season has been. I suspect Spring and the increase of indies at the cinema might just get my writing juices flowing again. My round-up of my July viewing is after the jump.

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