Feb 292016
 

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The Oscars are over for another year, with the 88th Awards taking place today at the Dolby Theatre. It was one of the weirdest (and longest) ceremonies in recent years. The order of the presentation this year was meant to represent the journey through a film’s production, but that made sense for a mere two awards, and the ceremony was broken up by satirical clips, bizarre interludes, a troupe of girl scouts selling cookies to the audience, and live performances of the three nominated songs. Chris Rock did a stellar job as host, tackling the criticism about this year’s lack of diversity head on from his opening monologue, and crossing the line on several other occasions. Many of the presenters and winners took the opportunity to voice their concerns about diversity, equal opportunity, climate change and sexual assault awareness.

Mad Max: Fury Road led the way with six wins, cleaning up the technical categories including Best Editing and Best Production Design. I am sure everybody wondered if this would also be George Miller’s day too. The Revenant claimed three – including Best Director for Alejandro G. Inarritu in addition to Leonardo DiCaprio (Best Actor) and Emmanuel Lubezki (Best Cinematography), who were all-but sure things. Brie Larson claimed a win for Room (Best Actress), Mark Rylance landed Best Supporting Actor for Bridge of Spies and Alicia Vikander was deemed the Best Supporting Actress for The Danish Girl. The Big Short won Best Adapted Screenplay and Ennio Morricone won his very first Oscar, at age 87, for The Hateful Eight. As many predicted Inside Out, Amy and Son of Saul were honoured for Best Animated, Documentary and Foreign Language Films respectively.

But, it was Spotlight that won the first and last awards – Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture – coming through the preferential ballot on top to become one of only a handful of films to win Best Picture with only one other victory. The film’s tremendous ensemble, its important and topical subject, and the fact that it is almost universally admired contributed.

Some personal highlights from the ceremony and the complete list of winners can be found after the jump: Continue reading »

Feb 252016
 

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Autumn not only brings some relief from the long, hot summer, but also an interesting mix of films. It’s a combination of 2015 titles that played at festivals and are getting a cinema release, and an eclectic mix of 2016 titles from almost every genre. This Autumn we’re looking forward to single-take marvels, Ralph Fiennes dancing, and a show down between two popular superheroes. Check out our 12 films to watch this Autumn* after the jump.

*dates correct at the time of posting this article, but you all know how the Australian release schedule shuffle goes..

Continue reading »

Feb 242016
 

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In cinemas this week: Hail Caesar!, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Son of Saul, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi and Gods of Egypt.

Hail Caesar! – In the early 1950s, Eddie Mannix is busy at work trying to solve all the problems of the actors and filmmakers at Capitol Pictures. His latest assignments involve a disgruntled director, a singing cowboy, a beautiful swimmer and a handsome dancer. As if all this wasn’t enough, Mannix faces his biggest challenge when Baird Whitlock gets kidnapped while in costume for the swords-and-sandals epic “Hail, Caesar!” If the studio doesn’t pay $100,000, it’s the end of the line for the movie star. The latest film from the Coen Bros may be a minor work – for me their screwball comedies aren’t quite as satisfying as their darker work – but this is destined to be a whole lot of fun anyway. And check out that cast – Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum and Tilda Swinton. 

Pride & Prejudice and Zombies – In the 19th century, a mysterious plague turns the English countryside into a war zone. No one is safe as the dead come back to life to terrorize the land. Fate leads Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James), a master of martial arts and weaponry, to join forces with Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley), a handsome but arrogant gentleman. Elizabeth can’t stand Darcy, but respects his skills as a zombie killer. Casting aside their personal differences, they unite on the blood-soaked battlefield to save their country. I was intrigued by this idea and after being very impressed by Lily James in Cinderella I was quite keen to check it out. Poor reviews have sapped my motivation, and I’ll see it on home ent release. 

Son of Saul – During World War II, a Jewish worker (Géza Röhrig) at the Auschwitz concentration camp tries to find a rabbi to give a child a proper burial. The clear favourite to win the Best Foreign Language film Oscar, this has been all the rage since its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival last year. Sure to be harrowing, gruelling viewing we’ll be making this one a priority considering it’s likely short, limited run.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of the Benghazi – On Sept. 11, 2012, Islamic militants attack the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and Sean Smith, an officer for the Foreign Service. Stationed less than one mile away are members (James Badge Dale, John Krasinski, Max Martini) of the Annex Security Team, former soldiers assigned to protect operatives and diplomats in the city. As the assault rages on, the six men engage the combatants in a fierce firefight to save the lives of the remaining Americans. This is perfect material for Michael Bay’s filmmaking sensibilities, and while the footage I have seen suggest more mature work from the filmmaker, it will still be a punishing 144 minutes.

Gods of Egypt – The survival of mankind hangs in the balance when Set (Gerard Butler), the merciless god of darkness, usurps Egypt’s throne and plunges the prosperous empire into chaos and conflict. Hoping to save the world and rescue his true love, a defiant mortal named Bek (Brenton Thwaites) forms an unlikely alliance with the powerful god Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Their battle against Set and his henchmen takes them into the afterlife and across the heavens for an epic confrontation. This looks BAD.

Weekly Recommendation: Every new film from the Coen Bros is cause for celebration, so you don’t want to miss Hail Caesar!. If you’re prepared for challenging cinema and want to have an opinion on this year’s Foreign Language Oscar category, you should seek out Son of Saul.

Feb 232016
 

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The 88th Academy Award ceremony takes place on Monday from 12.30pm AEST. We (Andy and Sam) have been keeping track of this rather crazy Season, reporting on many of the nominees and winners in the lead-up ceremonies. We have decided to reveal who we think will be taking home Oscars this year.

We have done our best to see as many nominees as possible. Apart from a few gaps in the Animated and Documentary categories, and shamefully ALL of the Foreign Language nominees, The Danish Girl is the only notable film with multiple key nominations we are yet to see.

If you are looking for help with your own predictions you might find assistance in a few categories that we agree on. In those we differ, sorry about that. There really isn’t a clear winner. You can find our predictions after the jump: Continue reading »

Feb 212016
 

concussion

When Dr Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) performs an autopsy on former Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster (David Morse), he is astounded to find that his brain appears healthy. How could a man who had seemingly lost his mind, have a healthy brain? Dr Omalu decides to dig deeper, and what he finds has huge ramifications on both his personal and professional life, and the NFL. Concussion is reviewed at the jump.

Continue reading »

Feb 202016
 

trumbo

Based on the biography, ‘Dalton Trumbo’by Bruce Alexander Cook and directed by Jay Roach (the Austin Powers films, Meet the ParentsTrumbo details the life and career of Dalton Trumbo, portrayed with tremendous charisma by the Academy Award-nominated Bryan Cranston (TVs Breaking Bad), an elite and gifted Hollywood screenwriter who was Blacklisted – denied the right to work – for his support of Communism at a time when America was stricken with Post-WWII paranoia. Continue reading »

Feb 172016
 

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In cinemas this week: Concussion, How to Be Single, Ride Along 2, 45 Years, Risen, Trumbo

Concussion – While conducting an autopsy on former NFL football player Mike Webster (David Morse), forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) discovers neurological deterioration that is similar to Alzheimer’s disease. Omalu names the disorder chronic traumatic encephalopathy and publishes his findings in a medical journal. As other athletes face the same diagnosis, the crusading doctor embarks on a mission to raise public awareness about the dangers of football-related head trauma. There have been positive reactions to Will Smith’s performance, for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe, but the film’s traditional structure and lack of punch has been the subject of criticism. 

How to Be Single – After four years of college, young Alice (Dakota Johnson) decides she needs a break from her long-term boyfriend Josh. Excited and ready for new challenges, the eager grad moves to New York to take a job as a paralegal. Helping her navigate her way through an unfamiliar city is Robin (Rebel Wilson), a fun-loving, wild co-worker who enjoys partying and one-night stands. With Robin as her freewheeling guide, Alice can now learn how to get free drinks, meet men and enjoy the single lifestyle. Neither the rather annoying Johnson or Wilson come close to selling me on seeing this, and this feminist rom-com seems to lean too much on the genre conventions it is trying to subvert.

Ride Along 2 – Rookie lawman Ben Barber (Kevin Hart) aspires to become a detective like James Payton (Ice Cube), his future brother-in-law. James reluctantly takes Ben to Miami to follow up on a lead that’s connected to a drug ring. The case brings them to a homicide detective and a computer hacker who reveals evidence that implicates a respected businessman. It’s now up to James and Ben to prove that charismatic executive Antonio Pope is actually a violent crime lord who rules southern Florida’s drug trade.

45 YearsThere is just one week until Kate Mercer’s forty-fifth wedding anniversary and the planning for the party is going well. But then a letter arrives for her husband. The body of his first love has been discovered, frozen and preserved in the icy glaciers of the Swiss Alps. By the time the party is upon them, five days later, there may not be a marriage left to celebrate. Like Weekend, writer/director Andrew Haigh gives his brilliant performers every chance to shine, relying on the quiet pauses between exchanges, and looks that tell more than any words could. His efficient screenplay is simple on the surface, but as the ghosts from the past invade the relatively peaceful present, it is an emotionally draining experience. He tugs at and pries open the nuances of the contract of marriage and the psychology of what it means to truly understand another human being. Nothing really to fault here, Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay are stunning. It made it on to Sam’s Top 15 of 2015 list (at the link).

Risen – Roman military tribune Clavius (Joseph Fiennes) remains set in his ways after serving 25 years in the army. He arrives at a crossroad when he’s tasked to investigate the mystery of what happened to Jesus (Cliff Curtis) following the Crucifixion. Accompanied by trusted aide Lucius (Tom Felton), his quest to disprove rumors of a risen Messiah makes him question his own beliefs and spirituality. As his journey takes him to places never dreamed of, Clavius discovers the truth that he’s been seeking.

Trumbo – In 1947, Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) was Hollywood’s top screenwriter until he and other artists were jailed and blacklisted for their political beliefs. Trumbo recounts how Dalton used words and wit to win two Academy Awards and expose the absurdity and injustice of the blacklist, which entangled everyone from gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren) to John Wayne, Kirk Douglas and Otto Preminger. Cranston has been nominated for all the major awards for his performance, so even if it doesn’t eschew standard biopic tropes, it will be worth a look (on home entertainment for us) for him alone.

Weekly Recommendation – 45 Years will be one of the more powerful dramas you are likely see this year; a mature and intelligent film from a very good filmmaker. If you haven’t yet seen Brooklyn, released last week, be sure to catch up with it.