Sep 242015
 

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So, hey. You might have noticed we’ve been a little quiet over the last few weeks. It turns out when you move house you don’t have time to see many movies, and you have even less time to write about them. It turns out, you also need the internet to keep a website running. We were without the internet for a couple of weeks and it just wasn’t possible to get content up.

Tomorrow we’re off to New Zealand for a short while, much means the site is going to be quiet for just a little longer. When we’re back we’ll be well rested, connected, and excited to get back to writing about films.

So, hey. We’ll be back soon. We hope you’ll be there.

PS – go see SICARIO and THE MARTIAN. We think they’re both tops.

 Posted by at 18:09
Sep 222015
 

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As we are going to be away for a couple of weeks, here is a preview of what is to come in cinemas both September 24 and October 1.

Sept 24 – Sicario, Pan, Cut Snake, The Visit, Diary of a Teenage Girl and London Road.

Oct 1 – The Martian, Macbeth, The Intern and The Wrecking Crew.

Sicario – In the lawless border area stretching between the U.S. and Mexico, an idealistic FBI agent [Emily Blunt] is enlisted by an elite government task force official [Josh Brolin] to aid in the escalating war against drugs. Led by an enigmatic consultant with a questionable past [Benicio Del Toro], the team sets out on a clandestine journey forcing Kate to question everything that she believes in order to survive. The latest film from the great French-Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Enemy) strikes a troubling chord throughout, ensuring there is an ever-present tension, and wisely keeping his characters working on different frequencies and keeping us in the dark as to what this task force is really up to. With some genius photography from Roger Deakins and an psyche rattling soundscape from Johann Johannsson, this is essential cinema viewing that implicates you in an off-the-grid government-sanctioned drug bust mission. Jeremy Scahill (an investigative reporter featured in Dirty Wars) would have had a hot case with this one.

Pan – The story of an orphan who is spirited away to the magical Neverland. There, he finds both fun and dangers, and ultimately discovers his destiny — to become the hero who will be forever known as Peter Pan. Joe Wright’s (Atonement, Hanna) re-working of the classic fairy tale will no doubt feature his renowned visual flair, and it also boasts a strong cast, including Hugh Jackman and Rooney Mara.

Cut Snake – In 1974, Sparra sweeps Paula off of her feet and starts building a life with her. When Pommie, a brutish thug, shows up unannounced, Sparra has a difficult time hiding his criminal past from Paula as he juggles both of their expectations. Starring Sullivan Stapleton and Alex Russell, Cut Snake premiered at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, but has taken a while to come to Australian audiences. I have seen some positive reactions – a lean, mean thriller which subverts conventions – and it has a lot of potential.

The Visit – The terrifying story of a brother and sister who are sent to their grandparents’ remote Pennsylvania farm for a weeklong trip. Once the children discover that the elderly couple is involved in something deeply disturbing, they see their chances of getting back home are growing smaller every day. The latest film from M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs and The Village – the good ones) has been gathering some praise – something the filmmaker has been in dire need of. The trailer isn’t much chop, but I don’t think anyone has every questioned his skills as a director of suspense – largely his scripts. Hopefully he deftly balances the horror and humour and makes the most of the tried-and-tired found-footage approach.

Diary of a Teenage Girl – Like most teenage girls, Minnie Goetze (Bel Powley) is longing for love, acceptance and a sense of purpose in the world. Minnie begins a complex love affair with her mother’s (Kristen Wiig) boyfriend, “the handsomest man in the world,” Monroe Rutherford (Alexander Skarsgård). What follows is a sharp, funny and provocative account of one girl’s sexual and artistic awakening, without judgment. Caught this at Sydney Film Festival and wasn’t overly impressed – I feel like I had seen it before, I never connected to or found sympathy in her sexploits. Many (almost everyone) has liked it more than me, but some further thoughts at the link.

London RoadDocuments the events that shook Suffolk in 2006, when the quiet rural town of Ipswich was shattered by the discovery of the bodies of five women. The residents of London Road had struggled for years with frequent soliciting and kerb-crawling on their street. The film follows the community who found themselves at the epicentre of the tragic events, and is based on interviews conducted with the road’s real residents. Using their own words set to an innovative musical score, London Road tells a moving story of ordinary people coming together during the darkest of experiences. Tom Hardy and Olivia Colman star, and Rupert Norris (Broken) directs. 

The Martian – During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meagre supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring “the Martian” home, while his crewmates concurrently plot a daring, if not impossible rescue mission. As these stories of incredible bravery unfold, the world comes together to root for Watney’s safe return. Sam absolutely loved this film – it is amongst her favourites for the year – and I am very much looking forward to seeing it. I believe the music and humour are the highlights.

Macbeth – Macbeth is the story of a fearless warrior and inspiring leader brought low by ambition and desire. A thrilling interpretation of the dramatic realities of the times and a reimagining of what wartime must have been like for one of literature’s most famous and compelling characters, a story of all-consuming passion and ambition set in war torn Scotland. Snowtown director Justin Kurzel teams up with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard for an adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays – and it is every bit as grim as suggested. Aesthetically brilliant and uncompromising, this lays down a challenge to the audience and I feel it will be very divisive.

The Intern – A retired successful business owner and widower lands an internship at a fashion website run by a young, career-driven woman. Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway star as said characters. I dunno. It could be fun.

The Wrecking Crew – What the Funk Brothers did for Motown…The Wrecking Crew did, only bigger, for the West Coast Sound. Six years in a row in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, the Grammy for “Record of the Year” went to Wrecking Crew recordings. This film tells the story in pictures and that oh, so glorious sound. The favorite songs of a generation are all here, presented by the people who made them for you. Produced and directed by Denny Tedesco, son of legendary late Wrecking Crew guitarist Tommy Tedesco, the film tells the story of the unsung musicians that provided the backbeat, the bottom and the swinging melody that drove many of the number one hits of the 1960’s. It didn’t matter if it was Nat “King” Cole, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, The Monkees, The Byrds or The Beach Boys, these dedicated musicians brought the flair and musicianship that made the American “west coast sound” a dominant cultural force around the world.

Recommendation: A powerful fortnight of releases. Sicario is essential viewing, and cinephiles won’t want to miss Macbeth. I am especially looking forward to The Martian and London Road from the daunting amount of unseen, but am intrigued by the formerly-unfamiliar The Wrecking Crew, Aussie thriller Cut Snake and M. Night’s return-to-form The Visit.

Sep 202015
 

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This year’s Sydney Underground Film Festival Opening Night selection was the latest from controversial French filmmaker Gaspar Noe, presented, for the first time in the festival’s history, in the desired 3D format. Love premiered at the Cannes Film Festival earlier in the year and true to the filmmakers reputation (he’s the guy that made the brilliant but often-unwatchable Irreversible and Enter the Void), was met with mixed reactions. Mostly negative, unfairly. Having thought about the film for a day now I have continued to appreciate the boundary-pushing approach to an intensely-passionate sexual relationship, the uncomfortably candid but empathetic study of how co-dependence and toxic influence can be both orgasmic and destructive, and the film’s interesting and aesthetically successful use of 3D.

Not at all the 3D porno such an indulgence could have surrendered to being, it is actually a emotionally-charged drama about regret and despair – and the battle between enlightenment and disillusionment with the co-existence of love and sex. It is the story of a young man still trapped in the lingering whirlwind of an all-encompassing sexual relationship with the likely love of his life – and dealing with the fact that she has gone and accepting who he needs to be in the next chapter of his life. Continue reading »

Sep 092015
 

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In cinemas this week: The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, Life, People, Places, Things, Pixels, Tangerine and The Duke of Burgundy

The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials In this next chapter of the epic “Maze Runner” saga, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his fellow Gladers face their greatest challenge yet: searching for clues about the mysterious and powerful organization known as WCKD. Their journey takes them to the Scorch, a desolate landscape filled with unimaginable obstacles. Teaming up with resistance fighters, the Gladers take on WCKD’s vastly superior forces and uncover its shocking plans for them all.

Life – A Life Magazine photographer receives the assignment to photograph rising Hollywood star James Dean. Stars Dane Dehaan and Robert Pattonson and it is excellent. My thoughts at the link.

People, Places, Things – Will Henry is a graphic novelist and a professor in NYC. At his adorable twin girls’ fifth birthday party, Will’s life is turned upside down when he walks in on the mother of his children, and longtime girlfriend, Charlie, with their friend Gary. One year later, Will is still alone and trying to put his life back together. He finds unexpected challenges when his talented student Kat tries to set Will up with her accomplished mother Diane. In this thoughtful comedy, Will is forced to navigate the unknown landscape of single fatherhood and dating in New York City, while remaining an inspiration for his students and coming to terms with himself both as a father as an artist.

Pixels – As kids in the 1980s, Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler), Will Cooper (Kevin James), Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad), and Eddie “The Fire Blaster” Plant (Peter Dinklage) saved the world thousands of times – at 25 cents a game in the video arcades. Now, they’re going to have to do it for real. In Pixels, when intergalactic aliens discover video feeds of classic arcade games and misinterpret them as a declaration of war, they attack the Earth, using the video games as the models for their assaults — and now-U.S. President Cooper must call on his old-school arcade friends to save the world from being destroyed by PAC-MAN, Donkey Kong, Galaga, Centipede, and Space Invaders. Joining them is Lt. Col. Violet Van Patten (Michelle Monaghan), a specialist supplying the arcaders with unique weapons to fight the aliens.

Tangerine – A working girl tears through Tinseltown on Christmas Eve searching for the pimp who broke her heart. This is the infamous iPhone film, which screened as part of the competition for the Sydney Film Festival prize. Further thoughts at the link.

The Duke of Burgundy – Day after day, Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and Evelyn (Chiara D’Anna) act out a simple yet provocative ritual that ends with Evelyn’s punishment and pleasure. As Cynthia yearns for a more conventional relationship, Evelyn’s obsession with erotica quickly becomes an addiction that may push the relationship to a breaking point. One of the weirdest films I saw at TIFF14. I still think about it often.

Weekly Recommendation: Having seen three of these films I can heartily recommend Life and, if you are in Melbourne (a Nova exclusive), The Duke of Burgundy. I did not like Tangerine as much as the crowd, but if you are interested in an innovative filmmaking venture that shatters convention you may find it a hoot. Having enjoyed The Maze Runner I will eventually see The Scorch Trials on DVD. Similarly People Places Things, which looks rather sweet.

Sep 032015
 

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Based on Bill Bryson’s 1988 book of the same name, A Walk in the Woods follows Bryson and friend Stephen Katz as they attempt to walk the Appalachian Trial, a 3500km hiking trail which runs from Georgia to Maine in the USA. While this may sound like a peaceful, yet challenging venture, a whole lot more than just walking went down. Grizzly bears, snowstorms, angry husbands and precarious cliffside adventures. My review after the jump.

Continue reading »

Sep 022015
 

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In cinemas this week – Straight Outta Compton, Gayby Baby, Me & Earl & the Dying Girl, American Ultra, A Walk in the Woods and The Transporter Refueled. 

Straight Outta Compton – In the mid-1980s, the streets of Compton, California, were some of the most dangerous in the country. When five young men translated their experiences growing up into brutally honest music that rebelled against abusive authority, they gave an explosive voice to a silenced generation. Following the meteoric rise and fall of N.W.A., Straight Outta Compton tells the astonishing story of how these youngsters revolutionized music and pop culture forever the moment they told the world the truth about life in the hood and ignited a cultural war. Reviews have been very strong – with one of my trustworthy friends claiming it to be his favourite film of the year. I’m in. 

Gayby Baby follows the lives of four kids – Gus, Ebony, Matt and Graham – whose parents all happen to be gay. As they each wrestle with personal change, the outside world wrestles with the issue of marriage equality, and whether or not kids of same-sex families are at risk. A former colleague of mine worked for many years on Gayby Baby and I am looking forward to supporting the film. Especially at this sensitive time. The message comes from a personal place, but it has national significance due to the ongoing debate about marriage equality. As it tackles its broad themes, I understand this rather compassionate PG-friendly doco takes the intimate perspective of the kids and reveals just how familiar their childhood experience really is.

Me & Earl & the Dying Girl – Winner of the 2015 Sundance Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award, ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL is the story of Greg Gaines (Thomas Mann), an awkward high school senior whose mom forces him to spend time with Rachel – a girl in his class (Olivia Cooke) with whom he hasn’t spoken to since kindergarten – who was just diagnosed with cancer. A big hit everywhere – Sundance and Sydney Film Festival Audience Awards – but certainly one of the most overrated films of the year in my opinion. My extended thoughts at the link.

American Ultra is a fast-paced action comedy about Mike (Eisenberg), a seemingly hapless and unmotivated stoner whose small-town life with his live-in girlfriend, Phoebe (Stewart), is suddenly turned upside down. Unbeknownst to him, Mike is actually a highly trained, lethal sleeper agent. In the blink of an eye, as his secret past comes back to haunt him, Mike is thrust into the middle of a deadly government operation and is forced to summon his inner action-hero in order to survive. I enjoy the cast, and this looks like an entertaining stoner romp. Still, hard to overlook the fact that the filmmaker also made Project X. 

A Walk in the Woods – In this new comedy adventure, celebrated travel writer, Bill Bryson (Robert Redford), instead of retiring to enjoy his loving and beautiful wife (Emma Thompson), and large and happy family, challenges himself to hike the Appalachian Trail – 2,200 miles of America’s most unspoiled, spectacular and rugged countryside from Georgia to Maine. The peace and tranquility he hopes to find, though, is anything but, once he agrees to being accompanied by the only person he can find willing to join him on the trek – his long lost and former friend Katz (Nick Nolte), a down-on-his-luck serial philanderer who, after a lifetime of relying on his charm and wits to keep one step ahead of the law – sees the trip as a way to sneak out of paying some debts and sneak into one last adventure before its too late. The trouble is, the two have a completely different definition of the word, “adventure”. Now they’re about to find out that when you push yourself to the edge, the real fun begins. I haven’t read any of Bill Bryson’s work, so this doesn’t appeal. But, I expect the veteran leads will have a good deal of fun out in the wilderness.

The Transporter Refueled – Frank Martin (Ed Skrein), a former special-ops mercenary, is now living a less perilous life – or so he thinks – transporting classified packages for questionable people. When Frank’s father (Ray Stevenson) pays him a visit in the south of France, their father-son bonding weekend takes a turn for the worse when Frank is engaged by a cunning femme-fatale, Anna (Loan Chabanol), and her three seductive sidekicks to orchestrate the bank heist of the century. Frank must use his covert expertise and knowledge of fast cars, fast driving and fast women to outrun a sinister Russian kingpin, and worse than that, he is thrust into a dangerous game of chess with a team of gorgeous women out for revenge.

Weekly Recommendation: The Gayby Baby banning debacle is embarrassing. What a country we live in. Everyone should take their kids along to see this film (Dendy Newtown has discounted tickets). For something not so kid-friendly go for Straight Outta Compton, by far the best-reviewed wide release here. I expect the hip-hipster Sundance winner [unreliable] Me & Earl & the Dying Girl will attract a big crowd, but here’s a tip – it’s not very good. 

Sep 012015
 

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A short trip to the Melbourne International Film Festival saw this month have a healthy 22 films viewed, 13 of those at the cinema. While MIFF contained my two favourite viewings of the month, it also saw me walk out of a film for only the second time in my life, and saw me fall asleep in two other films. Oh dear. My film and TV viewing round-up for August 2015 is after the jump.

Continue reading »

Sep 012015
 

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With regular life being busy – planning a move of house, and serious work commitments – my recent viewing habits (29 films in August) have been erratic and somewhat purposeless. We traveled to Melbourne for a long weekend for MIFF, which ended up being a great weekend for socialising, but a mixed bag in terms of films. I caught another six films in cinemas to keep in the know, and spent a considerable amount of time surfing Netflix, watching random films that took my fancy. Certainly the best time investment was Bloodline, which Sam and I consumed one episode at a time over a fortnight. Coming up in September – coverage of the Sydney Underground Film Festival and hopefully the Italian Film Festival. But, it is likely to be another quiet one. Thoughts on everything I watched in August after the jump.  Continue reading »