Feb 182015
 

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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
 

50shades

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
 

girlhood

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

Feb 132015
 


 

Writer-director Cameron Crowe (We Bought A Zoo, Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire) is back with his first new movie in 4 years. This one looks to be a take on the classic love triangle – a man, his ex (was she the one?) and a new women. With Crowe writing and a cast that includes Emma Stone, Bradley Cooper, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, Alec Baldwin and John Krasinski, it’s sure to be worth a watch. I think it looks great – there are too few “nice” films out these days. Sometimes it’s nice to switch off and watch some quality fluff.

Official synopsis

In Aloha, a celebrated military contractor (Bradley Cooper) returns to the site of his greatest career triumphs – the US Space program in Honolulu, Hawaii – and reconnects with a long-ago love (Rachel McAdams) while unexpectedly falling for the hard-charging Air Force watchdog (Emma Stone) assigned to him. From Academy Award®-winner Cameron Crowe, the writer-director behind such films as Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous, Aloha also stars Bill Murray, John Krasinski, Danny McBride, and Alec Baldwin.

 
IMDB has June 15 2015 listed as the Australian release date for the film.

Feb 122015
 

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New to cinemas this week are Selma, Citizen Four, The Interview, Fifty Shades of Grey and What We Did On Our Holiday. 

Selma is the story of a movement. The film chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. The epic march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories for the civil rights movement. Director Ava DuVernay’s Selma tells the real story of how the revered leader and visionary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo, a mighty performance) and his brothers and sisters in the movement prompted change that forever altered history. This is a very significant film, immensely powerful and superbly written, directed and performed, that was shamefully overlooked at the Oscars this year. It is focused, and yet bigger than the great man at the heart of this period of history.

Citizen Four – In January 2013, Laura Poitras (recipient of the 2012 MacArthur Genius Fellowship and co-recipient of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service) was several years into making a film about surveillance in the post-9/11 era when she started receiving encrypted e-mails from someone identifying himself as “Citizen Four,” who was ready to blow the whistle on the massive covert surveillance programs run by the NSA and other intelligence agencies. In June 2013, she and Glenn Greenwald flew to Hong Kong for the first of many meetings with the man who turned out to be Edward Snowden. She brought her camera with her. The film that resulted from this series of tense encounters is absolutely sui generis in the history of cinema: a 100% real-life thriller unfolding minute by minute before our eyes. Citizen Four has won just about every major Documentary award, and is the firm favourite to win the Oscar. It has been called by one critic the ‘film of the 21st Century’. It will be essential viewing.

The Interview – In this action-comedy, Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his producer Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen) run the popular celebrity tabloid TV show “Skylark Tonight.” When they discover that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is a fan of the show, they land an interview with him in an attempt to legitimize themselves as journalists. As Dave and Aaron prepare to travel to Pyongyang, their plans change when the CIA recruits them, perhaps the two least-qualified men imaginable, to assassinate Kim Jong-un. The laughs do dry up in this very silly (but not dumb) film for a while, but whenever the Franco/Rogen bromance is on show it is consistently hilarious. Not worthy of all of the fuss, which is the unfortunate baggage everyone has to take into it.

Fifty Shades of Grey – E.L. James’ kinky best-seller gets the big screen treatment with this Universal Pictures/Focus Features co-production. The steamy tale details a masochistic relationship between a college student and a businessman, whose desires for extreme intimacy pen from secrets in his past. All reports are that the source material is abysmal, which will very likely translate into a pretty terrible film, but this will attract a huge audience. Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy) and starring Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson.

What We Did On Our Holiday – Doug and Abi are taking their three children on a trip to Scotland for a big family gathering. They are in the midst of a difficult divorce, and have asked the kids to keep it a secret from their extended family. But as the inevitable feuds kick in, a completely unexpected turn of events involving the children causes further tensions to rise to the surface. And with the repercussions that ensue – hilarious and emotional in equal measure – the family are forced to put aside their differences and work together or else risk losing what they hold most dear. This has a top cast – Pike, Tennant and Connelly – and looks to be quite charming and pleasant. Probably a wait-for-DVD option, though.

Weekly Recommendation: A big, big week. Something for everyone. Fifty Shades of Grey will overwhelm everything else in BO takings, but it is Selma (and I suspect Citizen Four) that you MUST SEE. It will also be interesting to see how The Interview goes, given that half the country has probably already watched it by now. If you haven’t, it’s a good time.

Feb 102015
 

Rosewater

The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart found his first film project in an unusual way. Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari was imprisoned shortly after the 2009 Iranian elections, and when in prison had been shown a clip of himself on the satirical news show, The Daily Show, as evidence that he was a spy. Stewart has stated he felt guilt over this, and after Bahari released his book (‘Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity, and survival’), Rosewater came from there.

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Feb 092015
 

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Early this morning the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awarded their winners for the year of 2014 in film. They loved The Grand Budapest Hotel, which led all winners with five (including Best Original Screenplay, Score and Production Design). Boyhood, which was awarded Best Film, Best Director and Best Supporting Actress, finished with three along with Whiplash, including Supporting Actor – JK Simmons, and The Theory of Everything, including Best Actor – Eddie Redmayne. Julianne Moore continued her domination this awards season, winning Best Actress for Still AliceCitizen Four and Ida, hotly tipped to win Best Documentary and Foreign Language Film respectively, were also awarded.

In a star-studded field The Theory of Everything took out Best British Film, while Anthony McCarten’s adapted screenplay also beat out its chief Oscar contenders. While I personally would have loved to have seen Paddington win, The Imitation Game failed to take out its only real chance. Eddie Redmayne secured his favouritism for Best Actor over Michael Keaton, taking out the award on home turf. This Oscar race has to be one of the most interesting in recent years. While Birdman has slowly risen to Oscar Best Picture/Director favouritism after victories at the PGA and the DGA (excellent guide due to the voter crossover), Boyhood bounced back with the double here. With The Grand Budapest Hotel taking out Original Screenplay and Redmayne winning, Birdman was left with just the one win – for Lubezki’s cinematography. All of these categories, come Oscar day, are going to be quite unpredictable.

Check out all of the BAFTA winners after the jump: Continue reading »