Mar 312015
 

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So, with a perfect wedding and lovely but cut-short-by-cyclone Honeymoon to start the month – on Hamilton Island and Fiji respectively – there was a bit of a break from film, TV and media. I read books. Several. While lounging around the villa or by the pool I read The Circle, Night Train and The Cuckoo’s Calling, while I still have not quite finished 11.23.63. The latter is shaping up to be one of Steven King’s very best, and all of the the others ascend in quality. 

We also invested in a new PS4 game –  Dragon Age: Inquisition – and I now know what addiction is. This game is amazing. With an enormous, beautifully crafted world, immersive story with interesting characters and an often-daunting amount of gameplay options, this is RPG at a level I have never experienced. So, with work, this game and the occasional film (20) I have kept myself pretty busy.

What has been shortchanged? Reviews, mostly. You can find my brief thoughts on everything I watched in March below: Continue reading »

Mar 292015
 

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Shaun the Sheep Movie is a stop-motion animated feature produced by the brilliant Bristol-based animation studio, Aardman Animations (famous for feature films Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Chicken Run and Arthur Christmas), and is adapted by co writer/directors Richard Starzak and Mark Burton from the popular 2007 Shaun the Sheep television series.

Many will remember first being introduced to Shaun in Nick Park’s amazing 1995 Academy Award-winning short film Wallace and Gromit: A Close Shave. Park has been working with Aardman for decades, notably directing Chicken Run and The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, the latter of which also won an Oscar, and creating the spin-off aforementioned series that influenced this hilarious, inventive, brilliantly animated, and quintessentially British family entertainment. With Paddington warming hearts over the Christmas break, it pays to go British for the kiddies.  Continue reading »

Mar 292015
 


 
I am a massive Jake Gyllenhaal fan. He is on an absolute role right now with the likes of Enemy, Prisoners and Nightcrawler. Will Southpaw continue this trend of incredible performances in great films? It’s hard to say.

Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Equalizer), Southpaw tells the story of Junior Middleweight Champion Billy “The Great” Hope (Gyllenhaal), who fights his way to the top, only to find his life falling apart around him.

It also stars Rachel McAdams, Forest Whitaker, Rita Ora, Naomie Harris and 50 Cent.

I love Training Day, but I find Fuqua a little hit-and-miss. His films can be quite formulaic, and favour action sequences over character development or plot.

One thing is for sure, Jake has been working out. Comparing this hunk of muscle to the sickly looking character he played in Nightcrawler, it’s hard to believe it’s the same actor. It is said that he gained 15 pounds of pure muscle, training twice a day for seven days a week.

Southpaw releases in Australia on August 20, 2015.

Mar 252015
 

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In cinemas this week: InfinitelyPolar Bear, Shaun the Sheep, Leviathan,  Cinderella, A Little Chaos, Get Hard and Dior and I.

Infinitely Polar Bear –  Maggie (Zoe Saldana) and Cam (Mark Ruffalo) have a loving, but volatile relationship. Cam is a diagnosed manic-depressive, and while his love for his wife and two daughters is undeniable, he can’t always keep an even keel. After a particularly frightening manic episode, Maggie leaves Cam and moves the family to Boston. Cam is forced to live in temporary single accommodation. Despite Cam’s wealthy family and Maggie’s infallible work ethic, the family struggles to make ends meet. When Maggie is offered a full scholarship to study business at Columbia, she is elated – this is their ticket out of poverty. However, this means leaving Faith and Amelia (Imogene Wolodarsky) in the full-time care of her father. Maggie and Cam decide to take the leap, and through his extreme highs and extreme lows, he cares for the girls while Maggie works hard to secure them a better future. Continue reading Sam’s review from An Online Universe at the link.

Shaun the Sheep – When Shaun’s mischief inadvertently leads to the Farmer being taken away from the farm, Shaun, Bitzer and the flock have to go into the big city to rescue him, setting the stage for an epic adventure. Meant to be great, plus it is from the creators of Wallace and Gromit.

Leviathan – The latest drama from Andrey Zvyagintsev, the acclaimed director of The Return (Venice Film Festival Golden Lion winner). Kolya (Alexeï Serebriakov) lives in a small fishing town near the stunning Barents Sea in Northern Russia. He owns an auto-repair shop that stands right next to the house where he lives with his young wife Lilya (Elena Liadova) and his son Roma (Sergueï Pokhodaev) from a previous marriage. Isolated in a desolate coastal boneyard, an aging patriarch battles a corrupt official seeking to purchase the land his home stands upon and then finds his cherished relationships begin to crumble around him as a result. Marvellously constructed and photographed, this is a gut-wrenching story of a proud Everyman whose oppression grows increasingly closer, eventually enveloping everything he cares for and has stakes in.

Cinderella – When her father unexpectedly passes away, young Ella finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and her daughters. Never one to give up hope, Ella’s fortunes begin to change after meeting a dashing stranger. Starring Lily James, Cate Blanchet and James Madden, this revisionist take on the Disney classic is directed by Kenneth Branagh and supposed to be quite good.

A Little Chaos – A romantic drama following Sabine (Academy Award winner Kate Winslet), a strong-willed and talented landscape designer, who is chosen to build one of the main gardens at King Louis XIV’s new palace at Versailles. In her new position of power, she challenges gender and class barriers while also becoming professionally and romantically entangled with the court’s renowned landscape artist André Le Notre (Matthias Schoenaerts). Directed by Alan Rickman this had its premiere at TIFF last year, and met petty negative responses. Still, should be light entertainment, and worth a look for the Winslet/Schoenaerts match-up.

Get Hard – Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart headline this Warner Bros. comedy about a wrongfully convicted investment banker who prepares for prison life with the help of the man who washes his car. Etan Cohen directs, with Ian Roberts and Jay Martel handling screenwriting duties. Eh.

Dior and I – Frédéric Tcheng’s solo directorial debut brings the viewer inside the storied world of the Christian Dior fashion house with a privileged, behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Raf Simons’ first haute couture collection as its new artistic director-a true labor of love created by a dedicated group of collaborators. Melding the everyday, pressure-filled components of fashion with mysterious echoes from the iconic brand’s past, the film is also a colorful homage to the seamstresses who serve Simons’ vision.

Weekly Recommendation: Infinitely Polar Bear is a warm, loving film, an endearingly personal study of family togetherness through tough times. The performances are terrific. I am not sure I ever want to watch Leviathan again, but it feels like a true testament to Crime and Punishment, a painful epic of human drama with bold contemporary commentary. I definitely want to see Shaun the Sheep, and am genuinely intrigued by Alan Rickman’s A Little Chaos. Something for everyone this week, as it should be. 

Mar 242015
 

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After years of stories reporting Netflix was launching a local service, it has finally happened. Today Netflix launched Netflix Australia and New Zwaland with pricing plans starting for A$8.99 per month for Australia and NZ$9.99 per month for New Zealand  (one month free trial available). Those in Aus who have internet through iiNet or one of their subsidiaries (such as Optus), will get the added bonus of Netflix being unmetered – meaning it doesn’t count towards your data usage. Take note though, those using a VPN to access Netflix US etc will still be charged – this only applies to Aus customers directly accessing Netflix Aus/NZ the old-fashioned way.

Netflix’s Australia and New Zealand offerings will be different, with Stuff reporting that Kiwis will miss out on the likes of Downton Abby and season 3 of House of Cards, which are/will be available in the Australian catalogue.

It’s said that more than 200k Australians are thought to be accessing Netflix via VPN. How many will change? Well, that entirely depends on how quickly the Aus/NZ Netflix catalogue grows. It’s never going to have everything the US Netflix has due to licensing deals and issues acquiring local rights, but there is still potential. Considering the cost of US Netflix + VP is about US$13 per month, the Aus/NZ pricing does come out considerably cheaper, especially when the appalling exchange rate is taken into account.

It’s fantastic that film & TV lovers in this part of the world finally have legitimate access to the service, and if nothing else, it’s going to shake up the local market and provide some much-needed competition.

If you sign up to Netflix, let us know what you think of the offerings.

Mar 232015
 

The fifth Mission Impossible film has a name and a teaser trailer. Tom Cruise would like you to all know that he still has abs – I’m pretty sure it’s in his contract that he must be shirtless in at least on extended scene.

Jokes aside the film looks fun. I enjoy the high-octane action in this series and like Ethan’s sensibilities – he’s somewhere between the cockiness of Bond, and the down-to-earth seriousness of Bourne.

The [short] official synopsis for the film is as follows: “Ethan and team take on their most impossible mission yet, eradicating the Syndicate, an International rogue organization, as highly skilled as they are, committed to destroying the IMF.”

The film is set to be released in Australian cinemas on August 6, 2015.

Mar 212015
 

Infinitely polar bear

“Our Dad is totally polar bear” says Faith (Ashley Aufderheide) to her friends of her father, played by Mark Ruffalo. She of course means, bi-polar, but this little exchange is a perfect example of the warmth and humour which Infinitely Polar Bear employs to explore serious issues such as mental illness, race, working mothers and poverty. Review after the jump.

Continue reading »