In cinemas this week: In the Heart of the Sea, The Night Before, The End of the Tour, Phoenix and Truth.
In the Heart of the Sea – In the winter of 1820, the New England whaling ship Essex was assaulted by something no one could believe: a whale of mammoth size and will, and an almost human sense of vengeance. The real-life maritime disaster would inspire Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. But that told only half the story. This film reveals the encounter’s harrowing aftermath, as the ship’s surviving crew is pushed to their limits and forced to do the unthinkable to stay alive. Braving storms, starvation, panic and despair, the men will call into question their deepest beliefs, from the value of their lives to the morality of their trade, as their captain searches for direction on the open sea and his first mate still seeks to bring the great whale down. Full review to come – but rather a disappointment, despite some remarkable technical achievements.
The Night Before – For the last 10 years, lifelong buddies Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) have gathered on Christmas Eve to celebrate the holidays with a bang. As Isaac prepares to become a first-time father, the friends realize that their annual tradition is coming to a sad end. To make it as memorable as possible, they plan a night of debauchery and hilarity by searching for the Nutcracka Ball, the Holy Grail of Christmas parties in New York. The latest film from director Jonathan Levine, who worked with Rogen and Gordon-Levitt to great success in 50/50, is an irresistible blast of infectious Christmas spirit and hilariously irresponsible behaviour. A new holiday classic.
The End of the Tour – The story of the five-day interview between Rolling Stone reporter (and novelist) David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) and acclaimed novelist David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel), which took place right after the 1996 publication of Wallace’s groundbreaking epic novel, Infinite Jest. As the days go on, a tenuous yet intense relationship seems to develop between journalist and subject. The two men bob and weave around each other, sharing laughs and also possibly revealing hidden frailties – but it’s never clear how truthful they are being with each other. Ironically, the interview was never published, and five days of audio tapes were packed away in Lipsky’s closet. The two men did not meet again. A masterpiece – full thoughts at the link.
Phoenix – A spellbinding mystery of identity, illusion, and deception unfolds against the turmoil of post-World War II Germany in the stunning new film from acclaimed director Christian Petzold. Nelly (Nina Hoss), a German-Jewish nightclub singer, has survived a concentration camp, but with her face disfigured by a bullet wound. After undergoing reconstructive surgery, Nelly emerges with a new face, one similar but different enough that her former husband, Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld), doesn’t recognize her. Rather than reveal herself, Nelly walks into a dangerous game of duplicity and disguise as she tries to figure out if the man she loves may have been the one who betrayed her to the Nazis. Thought from SFF at the link.
Truth – The film chronicles the story Mapes (Cate Blanchett) and Rather (Robert Redford) uncovered that a sitting US president may have been AWOL from the United States National Guard for over a year during the Vietnam War. When the story blew up in their face, the ensuing scandal ruined Dan Rather’s career, nearly changed a US Presidential election, and almost took down all of CBS News in the process. Based on the book “”Truth and Duty” by Mary Mapes. Fascinating story that feels worthy of cinematic adaptation. Been hearing great things about Blanchett’s performance, but with such a stacked week might wait for DVD with this one.
Weekly Recommendation: We’re only a couple of weeks out from The Force Awakens and all of these films are soon going to disappear from the multiplexes. But it is a cracker of a week. Melbournites don’t miss The End of the Tour, one of the year’s very best films. It is screening exclusive to Nova. Whether you are after challenging, thought-provoking cinema (Phoenix), epic escapism (In the Heart of the Sea), or a chaotic buddy comedy bursting with Christmas spirit (The Night Before) there is something for you this week.