In cinemas this week: Ant-Man, Paper Towns, Insidious: Chapter 3, Ruben Guthrie, Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem and Women He’s Undressed
Ant-Man – The next evolution of the Marvel Cinematic Universe brings a founding member of The Avengers to the big screen for the first time with Marvel Studios’ “Ant-Man.” Armed with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, master thief Scott Lang must embrace his inner-hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, protect the secret behind his spectacular Ant-Man suit from a new generation of towering threats. Against seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Pym and Lang must plan and pull off a heist that will save the world. Reactions are on the side of positive, with most claiming this PG-Marvel has a lot of charm. Noticeably less stakes and world peril might mean it doesn’t leave much to get too excited about.
Paper Towns – Adapted from the bestselling novel by author John Green (“The Fault in Our Stars”), PAPER TOWNS is a coming-of-age story centering on Quentin and his enigmatic neighbour Margo, who loved mysteries so much she became one. After taking him on an all-night adventure through their hometown, Margo suddenly disappears–leaving behind cryptic clues for Quentin to decipher. The search leads Quentin and his quick-witted friends on an exhilarating adventure that is equal parts hilarious and moving. Ultimately, to track down Margo, Quentin must find a deeper understanding of true friendship–and true love. The YA crowd will likely go nuts for it, but as I have no knowledge of the source material I am going to skip it. It does provide a star vehicle for Nat Wolff (pretty decent in the disappointing Palo Alto).
Insidious Chapter 3 – The new chapter in the terrifying horror series is written and directed by franchise co-creator Leigh Whannell. This chilling prequel, set before the haunting of the Lambert family, reveals how gifted psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) reluctantly agrees to use her ability to contact the dead in order to help a teenage girl (Stefanie Scott) who has been targeted by a dangerous supernatural entity. Sounds like it is a perfectly decent ‘third film in a modern horror franchise’. The first film relied heavily on jump-scare tactics but was serviceable. With a franchise co-creator at the helm it sounds like there is some thematic depth here in amongst the frights.
Ruben Guthrie – Life is good for ad man Ruben Guthrie – he leads a party boy lifestyle, has a model fiancée and lives in a house on the water. He’s at the top of his game, until some drunken skylarking lands Ruben at the bottom of his infinity pool, lucky to be alive. His mum hits the panic button, and then his fiancée leaves him, but not before issuing him one final challenge: If Ruben can do one year without a drink, she’ll give him another chance. Ruben Guthrie is the story of one man not only battling the bottle, but the city that won’t let him put it down. The Opening Night selection at the Sydney Film Festival is rather obnoxious stuff with a nip of Sydney yuppie-culture truth that offers brief contemplation of forgiveness. But the sickening levels of product placement, sketchy stereotypical characters, forced and quickly ignored side-character drama, and thin analysis of the mass addiction vs. mass abstinence struggle drag the desired laugh quota to all-but nothing. I expect this is a pretty decent stage show, because there is a story here, but this film flubs it.
Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem – An Israeli woman (Ronit Elkabetz) seeking to finalize her divorce from her cruel and manipulative husband finds herself effectively put on trial by her country’s religiously-based marriage laws, in this riveting drama from sibling directors Shlomi and Ronit Elkabetz (Late Marriage and The Band’s Visit) who is also one of Israeli cinema’s most acclaimed actresses. In Israel there is neither civil marriage nor civil divorce; only rabbis can legalize a marriage or its dissolution, which is only possible with the husband’s full consent. Viviane Amsalem has been applying for a divorce for three years but her husband Elisha (Simon Ebkarian of Casino Royale and Persepolis), will not agree. His cold intransigence, Viviane’s determination to fight for her freedom, and the ambiguous role of the judges shape a procedure in which tragedy vies with absurdity, and where everything is brought out for judgment, apart from the initial request. Reviews have been very strong and the film received a Best Foreign Language Film nomination at the Golden Globes. Very much looking forward to it.
Women He’s Undressed – Gillian Armstrong’s (Unfolding Florence, SFF 2006) latest work is a stylish celebration of an unsung Australian cinema hero, costume designer Orry-Kelly. The three-time Oscar winner worked on countless films during Hollywood’s golden age, dressing stars like Marilyn Monroe (Some Like It Hot), Shirley MacLaine (Irma la Douce) and Natalie Wood (Gypsy). His costumes helped shape the characters on screen, empowering female performances, such as Bette Davis in Jezebel. An outspoken figure, Orry-Kelly was uncompromising in his sexuality, at a time when the film business was deeply conservative. This classy documentary, packed with clips and interviews, traces the life and work of this under-appreciated Aussie genius.
Weekly Recommendation: From the films going wide – Ant-Man. From those that will be tough to hunt down – Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem.