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Mar 172016


A rookie cop (that happens to be a bunny) and a con artist (that happens to be a fox) make unlikely partners in an investigation which goes to the heart of Zootopia, a sprawling metropolis inhabited by anthropomorphic animals of every shape, size and colour.  Disney’s latest film is part crime procedural and part life lesson about how to get along in this melting pot of a world. Zootopia is reviewed after the jump.

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In Cinemas 17 March 2016

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Mar 172016


In cinemas this week: Zootopia, The Witch, The Daughter, London Has Fallen and Miracles From Heaven.

Zootopia – From the largest elephant to the smallest shrew, the city of Zootopia is a mammal metropolis where various animals live and thrive. When Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) becomes the first rabbit to join the police force, she quickly learns how tough it is to enforce the law. Determined to prove herself, Judy jumps at the opportunity to solve a mysterious case. Unfortunately, that means working with Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a wily fox who makes her job even harder. I am still in awe that this film exists – visually it is incredibly inventive and detailed, it has a meaty procedural plot with a timely pro tolerance/equality message and an outstanding voice cast. Sets the bar high for animation in 2016.

The Witch – In 1630 New England, panic and despair envelops a farmer (Ralph Ineson), his wife (Kate Dickie) and four of their children when youngest son Samuel suddenly vanishes. The family blames Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), the oldest daughter who was watching the boy at the time of his disappearance. With suspicion and paranoia mounting, twin siblings Mercy (Ellie Grainger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson) suspect Thomasin of witchcraft, testing the clan’s faith, loyalty and love to one another. Full review at the link. 

The Daughter – Christian (Paul Schneider) returns to his Australian hometown for his father’s (Geoffrey Rush) wedding. Reconnecting with a childhood friend (Ewen Leslie) and his family, he unearths a long-buried secret that threatens to shatter their lives. It screened in the Official Competition at last year’s Sydney Film Festival, so it feels like a long time coming back to screens. I was rather disappointed; the DRAMA felt predictable and implausible, despite some very good performances. Leslie, Sam Neill and Odessa Young in particular.

London Has Fallen – After the death of the British prime minister, the world’s most powerful leaders gather in London to pay their respects. Without warning, terrorists unleash a devastating attack that leaves the city in chaos and ruins. Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) springs into action to bring U.S. President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) to safety. When Asher falls into the hands of the sinister organization, it’s up to Banning to save his commander in chief from a horrible fate. Have seen some reviews calling this “one of the worst action movies in recent memory”. Guess what another recent one is? The prequel, Olympus Has Fallen. I hated that film, no way will I ever subject myself to this. 

Miracles From Heaven – Anna Beam (Kylie Rogers) lives with a rare, incurable disorder that leaves her unable to digest food. Despite the dire diagnosis, devoted mom Christy (Jennifer Garner) relentlessly searches for a way to save her beloved daughter. Everything changes in an instant when Anna tells an amazing story of a visit to heaven after surviving a headlong tumble into a tree. Her family and doctors become even more baffled when the young girl begins to show signs of recovering from her fatal condition. Righto.

Weekly Recommendation – Zootopia and The Witch, about as different as you can get, are two of the most impressive films I have seen this year. Zootopia, while colourful and fast-paced enough for kids, is so rich in narrative and theme it is likely to be a even more of a treat for the adults. The Witch is scary; a skillfully crafted debut feature that genuinely earns your fear. Very limited release.

The Witch

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Mar 132016


Robert Eggers’ skillfully crafted début horror film caused a stir at its première at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, where Eggers won the Best Directing award. After being slated for a surprisingly wide U.S release, there was a wave of anticipation, and in-turn lots of mixed reactions (a C- Cinemascore for example). A small selection of Australian audiences – it is releasing on one screen in Melbourne and Sydney only – will get the chance to settle their expectations in the cinema. Considering the sort of horror film it is – a slow-build, lathered thick in atmosphere and even thicker New England accents – it is rather puzzling to hear so much buzz. The marketing has been excellent. Horror buffs hoping for the splattering of gore offered by the Saw films or the jump scare-per-minute pace of The Conjuring will likely find themselves squirming in restlessness, but this film offers very real terror by building a convincing context for a predatory menace and takes the time to genuinely earn your fear. Continue reading »

10 Cloverfield Lane

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Mar 102016


While it may only be a relation to Cloverfield in name and a similarly tense atmosphere, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a terrific début feature film from Dan Trachtenberg. The film delivers both a nail-biting cinema experience, and a captivating, dark performance from the incredible John Goodman.

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In Cinemas 10 March 2016

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Mar 102016


In cinemas this week – 10 Cloverfield Lane, Victoria, Spear and Grimsby. 

10 Cloverfield Lane – A woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) discovers the horrifying truth about the outside world while living in an underground shelter with two men (John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr.). Have no expectations at all here, but if there is a film that warrants a sequel – or a film set in the same universe – it is Cloverfield. Great cast & trailer.

Victoria – Four local Berliners recruit a thrill-seeking Spanish woman (Laia Costa) to be their getaway driver for a bank robbery. This amazing film is comprised of a single take. No tricks. No effects. It premiered at last year’s Sydney Film Festival, and I [Andy] have seen few films since then that have affected me as much. Further thoughts at the link.

SpearA contemporary Aboriginal story, told through movement and dance, of a young man Djali as he journeys through his community to understand what it means to be a man with ancient traditions in a modern world. Spanning from the outback of Australia to the gritty city streets of Sydney, Spear is a poignant reflection of the continuing cultural connection of Indigenous people. It is an intimate journey with Stephen Page, one of Australia’s most celebrated artists, as he brings this modern day mythological story to the screen.

Grimsby – Dimwitted Nobby (Sacha Baron Cohen) lives in an English fishing town with his loving girlfriend (Rebel Wilson) and nine children. For the last 28 years, he’s been searching for his long-lost brother Sebastian (Mark Strong). When the two finally reunite, Nobby finds out that his sibling is a top MI6 agent who’s just uncovered a sinister plot. Wrongfully accused and on the run, Sebastian now realizes that he needs Nobby’s help to save the world and prove his innocence. I haven’t enjoyed any of Sacha Baron Cohen’s creations since Borat, so I will be giving it a miss.

Weekly Recommendation – Can’t recommend seeing Victoria in cinemas enough. Essential viewing, but the release is limited – Nova in Melbourne and Golden Age in Sydney. Well worth making the effort. Cloverfield was great, and the teaser trailer for the loosely-linked Lane doesn’t reveal anything. Count us in. And speaking of trailers, Spear also looks amazing. Let’s hope Australian audiences give this local film some support.

True Detective Season 2 – Crime and the Rotting City

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Mar 082016


While I expected to enjoy the second season of True Detective, considering the crime procedural is one of my favourite genres and despite hostile negative reactions, I was not prepared for just how excellent it was. I was taken, especially, with how essential the passing of time is to the narrative, and how it is as much as study of a crime-infested city as the human characters themselves. I thought I would explore this idea and discuss where True Detective Season 2 succeeds, and highlight two feature films – Zodiac and Marshland – that also make the location a core character.  Continue reading »

Son of Saul

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Mar 082016


Son of Saul, the sensational, technically audacious and emotionally gruelling début feature film from 38-year-old Hungarian filmmaker Laszlo Nemes, was one of the best reviewed films at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Grand Prix. It then went on to receive near-universal acclaim and was awarded Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards. A horror film above all, this courageous work depicts two days in the life of Saul Auslander (Géza Röhrig), a Jewish-Hungarian prisoner working as a member of the Sonderkommando – Jewish prisoners enlisted to assist with the disposal of gas chamber victims for meagre rations – at one of the Auschwitz concentration camp crematoriums. Continue reading »

Trailer: The Daughter

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Mar 062016


This trailer for Australian film The Daughter has been around for 4 months, but I only saw it for the first time this week as it has started showing before films and on various online sites. When I decided not to see this at Sydney Film Festival last year, I thought I wouldn’t have to wait too long to catch it on general release. 9 months later, still waiting.

The film finally gets an Australian cinema release on March 17 (with previews March 11) and I am really looking forward to finally seeing it. The film received such positive reviews out of both Sydney Film Festival and TIFF. I’ve heard a couple of people say that the trailer isn’t entirely representative of the film, but regardless, it’s a fantastic trailer and if I wasn’t already looking forward to the film, I am now.

The official synopsis of the film:

In the last days of a dying logging town Christian (Paul Schneider) returns to his family home for his father Henry’s (Geoffrey Rush) wedding to the much younger Anna (Anna Torv). While home, Christian reconnects with his childhood friend Oliver (Ewen Leslie), who has stayed in town working at Henry’s timber mill and is now out of a job. As Christian gets to know Oliver’s wife Charlotte (Miranda Otto), daughter Hedvig (Odessa Young) and father Walter (Sam Neill), he discovers a secret that could tear Oliver’s family apart. As he tries to right the wrongs of the past, his actions threaten to shatter the lives of those he left behind years before.