May 312015
 

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I made six visits to the cinema in May, double the amount of April but still relatively slim in comparison to last year. But, I have not been short of viewing options. Having gained media accreditation for the Sydney Film Festival I have been working through a bunch of screeners. Some amazing. Others average. Coverage will come during the festival so I can’t discuss any of these films here. I am seeing 30 films during the 12 days of the festival so June is going to be crazy. As has been a 2015 trend, and what I feel is a work requirement, I have been watching a lot of DTV films released on VOD platforms. There are some gems in there. It just takes a little bit of research, but a complete unknown could appear on your best of the year list.

Mad Men is over. Sam and I very much enjoyed finishing the show, after watching from Season 3 together. Very satisfying. Speaking of satisfying I finished Dragon Age: Inquisition on PS4. 85 hours committed and not a regret. I have started ‘My Career’ mode in NBA 2K15 – a whole new addiction. I have also been listening to a lot of music recently, and I discovered two of my favourite albums of the year this month – The Epic by Kamasi Washington and Frozen Niagara Falls by Purient. On the novel front, been reading Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. Every bit as great as I was led to believe. You can never have too much Bourdain in your life.

I watched a total of 32 films in May. Read about a selection after the jump:

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May 292015
 

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An Online Universe’s Andrew Buckle joins Blake Howard of Graffiti with Punctuation, on episode 78 of Pod Save Our Screen. The pair talk 2015 Sydney Film Festival must-sees and potential late Cannes additions. Listen/get the download link here.

May 282015
 

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In cinemas this week: Tomorrowland, San Andreas, Partisan and Gemma Bovery. 

Tomorrowland – Bound by a shared destiny, former boy-genius Frank (George Clooney), jaded by disillusionment, and Casey (Britt Robertson), a bright, optimistic teen bursting with scientific curiosity, embark on a danger-filled mission to unearth the secrets of an enigmatic place somewhere in time and space known only as “Tomorrowland.” What they must do there changes the world-and them-forever. Featuring a screenplay by “Lost” writer and co-creator Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol), Tomorrowland promises to take audiences on a thrill ride of nonstop adventures through new dimensions that have only been dreamed of. Sam liked it more than I and her thoughts can be found at the link.

San Andreas – In the aftermath of a massive earthquake in California, a rescue-chopper pilot (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson) makes a dangerous journey across the state in order to rescue his estranged daughter. I like The Rock a lot, but I don’t race out to see disaster movies these days. Carla Gugino and Alexanda Daddario co-star.

Partisan – The film stars Vincent Cassel as Gregori, a cult leader, and tells the story of Alexander, a young assassin raised to see the world through Gregori’s eyes who is starting to think for himself. The feature marks Australian filmmaker Ariel Kleiman’s directorial debut, and he wrote the film with his girlfriend Sarah Cyngler. Partisan premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and sounds like an intriguing story. Cassel is always a compelling screen presence. Guy gives me the creeps.

Gemma Bovery – Life begins to imitate art in uncanny ways when earthy British beauty Gemma (Gemma Arterton) and her furniture restorer husband Charles Bovery (Jason Flemyng) move to the very same Norman village where the graphic novel was written. Local baker and Flaubert fan Martin Joubert (Fabrice Luchini) falls for the lovely and charming newcomer and sets out to be her mentor. It doesn’t take long before his wild imagination leads him to draw parallels between the literary and real life woman, as he insinuates himself into her life. She soon finds herself at a crossroads that seems to be fulfilling Joubert’s worst fears that her destiny is mirroring that of Flaubert’s doomed heroine. Director Anne Fontaine’s clever adaptation of the graphic novel is at once a cheeky literary mash-up, a sensuous romance, a witty feminist commentary, and a heady celebration of French provincial life. I have not heard very much about this at all.

Weekly Recommendation: If I hadn’t yet seen Tomorrowland, I would be blindly recommending it. But I have. It is certainly worth a look but don’t get too excited. Depending on what you feel like, San Andreas and Partisan are going to appeal, and I expect will deliver in their own way. 

May 272015
 

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Cold days and ever colder nights. Winter is the perfect time to escape to the cinema. For those in Sydney, the season starts with the annual film festival, this year running June 3-14; while Melbourne’s annual film festival kicks off in late July. Outside of the festivals, there’s still a fair bit coming to cinemas. Here’s our pick for 12 films to watch this Winter.

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May 262015
 

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The Festival de Cannes has finished for another year, with films the second half of the festival receiving reactions from “An intensely compelling work” to, “sharp and heavy-handed”.

We haven’t included it in the list, but obviously the Palme d’Or winner Dheepan is a film to seek out. If a jury led by the Coens gave it the top prize, it’s probably special. Aus film fans will be pleased to know that Transmission Films have already picked it up for Aus distribution.

After the jump, check out the five films we are the most excited to see from the second half of the fest.

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May 252015
 

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The Cannes Film Festival, the world’s most prestigious international film festival, is over for another year. Over the course of last twelve days 19 titles screened in the official competition before a jury led by the Coen Bros. Amongst some of the best received critically, at least from what I interpreted through my feed, were Todd Haynes’ Carol, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s The Assassin, Laszlo Nemes’ Son of Saul, Nanni Moretti’s Mi Madre, Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth and Denis Velleneuve’s Sicario. 

But, the jury award the Palme d’Or to Jacques Audiard for Dheepan, a drama about a Sri Lankan Tamil warrior who flees to France and ends up working as a caretaker outside Paris. Audiard’s last two films A Prophet and Rust and Bone both screened in the official competition, with the former winning the Grand Prix in 2009.

The Grand Prix (second prize) was awarded to Son of Saul, which sounds tremendous –  1944 Auschwitz, a prisoner forced to burn the corpses of his own people finds moral survival upon trying to salvage from the flames the body of a boy he takes for his son.

Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster was awarded the Jury Prize (third prize). This is the first English-language feature from the Greek director, featuring a cast including Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz and John C. Reilly.  Set in a dystopian near future, single people are obliged to find a matching mate in 45 days or are transformed into animals and released into the woods. Lanthimos won the Grand Prix in the Un Certain Regard section in 2009 for Dogtooth.

Best Director was awarded to Hsiao-hsien for The Assassin and Best Screenplay was awarded to Michael Franco for Chronic. There was a lot of discussion about the possibility of Tim Roth winning Best Actor for his performance in Chronic, so the screenplay win was a surprise. Best Actress was shared by Rooney Mara for Carol and Emannuelle Bercot for Mon Roi. The former film was wonderfully received, and the performances for both Mara and Cate Blanchett were celebrated. Mon Roi, Maiwenn’s follow-up to the award-winning Polisse, was not well-received at all. Best Actor was awarded to Vincent London for The Measure of a Man, directed by Stephane Brize.

For a full list of this year’s winners, visit the official Cannes Film Festival website.

While it has been hard to gauge just how strong this year’s line-up is, there are certainly a bunch of Competition titles that sound very intriguing. In addition to the aforementioned winners I most look forward to when Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario, Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth, Matteo Garrone’s The Tale of Tales, Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth and Joachim Trier’s Louder Than Bombs all make it to Australian screens over the next twelve months.

May 222015
 

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A section of Disneyland since 1955, Tomorrowland represents the possibility and optimism in post-war America. Brought to life by director Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles), the Tomorrowland of this film represents both possibility and failure. Greed and complacency has almost driven the world to a point of no return. Could Tomorrowland be the beacon of hope so desperately needed? Tomorrowland is reviewed after the jump.

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May 222015
 

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New to cinemas this week: Spy, Woman in Gold, Wild Tales and Danny Collins.

Spy – Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) is an unassuming, deskbound CIA analyst, and the unsung hero behind the Agency’s most dangerous missions. But when her partner (Jude Law) falls off the grid and another top agent (Jason Statham) is compromised, she volunteers to go deep undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer, and prevent a global disaster. I am always wary when I see “from the creators of Bridesmaids” but this looks really funny. Hit-and-miss with McCarthy, but heard all good things about this one.

Woman in GoldThe remarkable true story of one woman’s journey to reclaim her heritage and seek justice for what happened to her family. Sixty years after she fled Vienna during World War II, an elderly Jewish woman, Maria Altmann (Mirren), starts her journey to retrieve family possessions seized by the Nazis, among them Klimt’s famous painting ‘Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I’. Together with her inexperienced but plucky young lawyer Randy Schoenberg (Reynolds), she embarks upon a major battle which takes them all the way to the heart of the Austrian establishment and the U.S. Supreme Court, and forces her to confront difficult truths about the past along the way. I was surprised by how moved I was by this extraordinary story. Strong performances from Mirren and Reynolds. Review at the link.

Wild Tales – Inequality, injustice and the demands of the world we live in cause stress and depression for many people. Some of them, however, explode. This is a movie about those people. Vulnerable in the face of a reality that shifts and suddenly turns unpredictable, the characters of Wild Tales cross the thin line that divides civilization and barbarism. A lover’s betrayal, a return to the repressed past and the violence woven into everyday encounters drive the characters to madness as they cede to the undeniable pleasure of losing control. Been riding buzz from Cannes 2014, through to its nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, through to general word-of-mouth amongst peers. A satirical Argentinian anthology, I believe it is equally hilarious and deranged.

Danny Collins – Al Pacino stars as aging 1970s rocker Danny Collins, who can’t give up his hard-living ways. But when his manager (Christopher Plummer) uncovers a 40 year-old undelivered letter written to him by John Lennon, he decides to change course and embarks on a heartfelt journey to rediscover his family, find true love and begin a second act. I hadn’t even heard about this until I learned it was already out. Intriguing, but not on the priority list.

Weekly Recommendation: Woman in Gold is strong, but this is a pretty good week in the wake of Fury Road. I am really looking forward to Spy and Wild Tales.