The Jungle Book

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Apr 202016
 

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Almost 50 years after Disney brought us the animated musical adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s 19th century stories The Jungle Book is back, this time as live-action-CGI fantasy adventure. Darker than its largely comedic [and musical] predecessor, this version is a journey of discovery for our young hero, who has not only a formidable enemy to overcome, but also issues of identity and family to grapple with. The Jungle Book is reviewed after the jump.

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2016 Cannes Film Festival Line-up Announced

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Apr 152016
 

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Yesterday evening the 2016 Cannes Film Festival line-up was announced. Always one of the highlights on the calendar year. For the first time, in one of the nerdiest decisions ever as a film buff, we watched the announcement on a Youtube live stream. In French. It had surprisingly little fanfare, simply two guys sitting at a table reading out the titles from a piece of paper. But, what they announced was an exciting list of films that went straight to our must-see lists.

The filmmakers competing in this year’s Official Competition include an all-star cast of Cannes veterans and first-time participants. It is an absolutely stacked field of world-class filmmakers, as you would expect. In the competition alone we can look forward to new films from… breathe, there are a lot…Mike Nichols (whose other new film Midnight Special is set to hit Australian cinemas next week), Jim Jarmusch (whose last film to premiere at Cannes, Only Lovers Left Alive, went on to become our favourite film of the year), Park Chan-wook (Korean legend – Oldboy, Stoker), Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (previous Palme d’Or winners – Two Days, One Night, Rosetta), Olivier Assayas (Clouds of Sils Maria), Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank, Red Road), Sean Penn (Into the Wild, and this is his first film since 2007), Nicolas Winding Refn (Only God Forgives, famously booed at Cannes a few years back, and Drive), Ken Loach (another previous Palme winner with The Wind That Shakes the Barley, but thought to have retired), Paul Verhoeven (just his fourth film of the 21st Century, but boasts an incredible career including RoboCop and Showgirls), Christian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Beyond the Hills), Pedro Almodovar (a Cannes regular, last time with The Skin I Live In), Alain Guiraudie (Stranger By the Lake) and Xavier Dolan (Canadian wunderkind making his second appearance in the Palme competition, after Mommy in 2014).

Check out the full list of films announced to screen as part of the Official Competition, Un Certain Regard, Midnight Screenings and Outside Competition, and let us know what films you are most looking forward to:

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In Cinemas 14 April 2016

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Apr 142016
 

THE JUNGLE BOOK - (Pictured) MOWGLI and KING LOUIE ©2015 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

In cinemas this week: The Jungle Book (QLD last week, all other states this week), The Boss, The Divergent Series: Allegiant, Our Little Sister, Wide Open Sky. 

The Boss – Wealthy CEO Michelle Darnell (Melissa McCarthy) always gets her way, until she’s busted for insider trading and sent to federal prison. After leaving jail, Darnell finds herself broke, homeless and hated. Luckily, she tracks down former assistant Claire (Kristen Bell), the only person who’s willing to help. While staying with Claire and her young daughter, the ex-con devises a new business model for a brownie empire. Unfortunately, some old enemies stand in the way of her return to the top. Melissa McCarthy can be divisive, but her creative partnership with her husband, director Ben Falcone, doesn’t seem to be working to the levels of Paul Feig (Spy, The Heat).

The Divergent Series: Allegiant – Tris must escape with Four and go beyond the wall enclosing Chicago. For the first time ever, they will leave the only city and family they have ever known in order to find a peaceful solution for their embroiled city. Once outside, old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless with the revelation of shocking new truths. Tris and Four must quickly decide who they can trust as a ruthless battle ignites beyond the walls of Chicago which threatens all of humanity. In order to survive, Tris will be forced to make impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice and love. This franchise has just never got off the ground, with loyal fans dropping off with each new instalment. 

Our Little Sister – After the death of their estranged father, three siblings (Haruka Ayase, Masami Nagasawa, Kaho) invite their half sister (Suzu Hirose) to live with them. The latest film from Japanese filmmaker Hirozaku Kore-eda was one of the most charming films I saw at last year’s Sydney Film Festival. It tells a very kind and touching story of sibling unity through loss and the desire for independence. His films often deal with themes of family ties, and the strength of love through hardships. It is a very smartly cast and directed film and is a fundamentally perfect crowd-pleaser.

Wide Open Sky – Follows the heart-warming journey of an outback children’s choir and its founder Michelle Leonard’s personal mission to bring a desolate musical landscape back to life. Chronicling their journey from audition to stage, the film reveals the trials and tribulations of trying to run a children’s choir in the most isolated and disadvantaged region of NSW where sport is king and music education is non-existent.

Weekly Recommendation: We have heard nothing but great things about The Jungle Book and Our Little Sister is a delight.  

The Best Films Set In…Detroit

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Apr 132016
 

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This is the fifteenth post in the “The Best Films Set In…” series. The setting can be a place (like Tokyo), a location (like the beach), or a time (like Winter). In these posts we’re going to pick our 5 favourite films that are set in that particular place/location/time and explain why we like them. In this edition we visit the urban jungle that is Detroit.

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Trailer: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

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Apr 132016
 


 
The music. For me, this trailer is all about that Harry Potter-tinged score. I don’t think I have ever been as excited to see a film as I was to see the first Harry Potter movie. I couldn’t sleep the night before it was released, and I snuck out of school just before lunch so I could see it on opening day. There is something about hearing that score that brings all those emotions rushing back.

Of course this isn’t a Harry Potter film as such, but it is set in the same magical universe. The film focuses on the adventures of writer Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards, seventy years before Harry Potter studies his books at Hogwarts. The trailer looks wonderful, and I love the idea of exploring the wizarding world further, without rewriting or playing around with the original story. This should be fun.

The film is set for release in November.

In Cinemas 7 April 2016

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Apr 072016
 

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In cinemas this week: The Jungle Book (QLD only), The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Where to Invade Next and Rams. 

The Jungle Book – Raised by a family of wolves since birth, Mowgli (Neel Sethi) must leave the only home he’s ever known when the fearsome tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) unleashes his mighty roar. Guided by a stern panther (Ben Kingsley) and a free-spirited bear (Bill Murray), the young boy meets an array of jungle animals, including a slithery python (Scarlett Johansson) and a smooth-talking ape. Along the way, Mowgli learns valuable life lessons as his epic journey of self-discovery leads to fun and adventure. Initial skepticism about the distraction the voice-cast would offer have faded away quickly as the early reviews not only praise the casting but the magical technical wonders and powerful storytelling. Disney are having a good start to the year, it seems. 

The Huntsman: Winter’s War – Betrayed by her evil sister Ravenna (Charlize Theron), heartbroken Freya (Emily Blunt) retreats to a northern kingdom to raise an army of huntsmen as her protectors. Gifted with the ability to freeze her enemies in ice, Freya teaches her young soldiers to never fall in love. When Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and fellow warrior Sara (Jessica Chastain) defy this rule, the angry queen does whatever she can to stop them. This film is destined to be forgotten, like its predecessor. Generally mediocre it squanders an ace cast, caught in an awkward position of being too silly for adults and too adult for kids. Full thoughts at the link. 

Where to Invade Next – Filmmaker Michael Moore visits various countries to examine how Europeans view work, education, health care, sex, equality, and other issues. From cafeteria food to sex ed, Moore looks at the benefits of schooling in France, Finland and Slovenia. In Italy, he marvels at how workers enjoy reasonable hours and generous vacation time. In Portugal, Moore notes the effects of the decriminalization of drugs. Through his travels, we discover just how different America is from the rest of the world. I am always interested in Michael Moore’s films, but I think I will wait until this one hits home release.

Rams – In a secluded valley in Iceland, Gummi and Kiddi live side by side, tending to their sheep. Their ancestral sheep-stock is considered one of the country’s best and the two brothers are repeatedly awarded for their prized rams who carry an ancient lineage. Although they share the land and a way of life, Gummi and Kiddi have not spoken to each other in four decades. When a lethal disease suddenly infects Kiddi’s sheep, the entire valley comes under threat. This is a near death sentence for the farmers, whose sheep are their main source of income, and many abandon their land. But Gummi and Kiddi don’t give up so easily – and each brother tries to stave off the disaster in his own fashion. Fantastic. A completely unique story with a striking setting, a fascinating sibling dynamic and a dark sense of that distinctive Scandinavian humour. All gel perfectly. One of Sam’s favourite films of 2015.

Weekly Recommendation – Queensland are lucky, they get The Jungle Book a week before the rest of the country. Sydney-siders are guided to seek out Rams, screening at Palace Cinemas. If anything, it will offer a fresh and rather unforgettable experience. 

The Huntsman: Winter’s War

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Apr 062016
 

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Back in 2012 the promising-looking Snow White and the Huntsman, a darker take on the classic fairy tale, failed to set the world on fire and has since been forgotten about by most who watched it. This completely unnecessary, and frankly surprising, new entry to the franchise, detailing events preceding and following those in the first film, seems set to experience a similar fate. This generally mediocre by-committee fantasy lacks scale and a clear vision, and again squanders an all-star cast, including new faces Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain. Uneven performances, a confused narrative and an imbalance of tone – the narration alone deems it to silly for adults, and yet it possesses woefully miscued jokes that are too adult for youngsters – overshadow some elegant costumes, amusing supporting performances and mildly thrilling action sequences. Continue reading »

First Films Announced for Sydney Film Festival 2016

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Apr 062016
 

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The 63rd Sydney Film Festival today announced 26 new films to be featured in this year’s 8-19 June event. These films are in addition to the Scorsese retrospective which was already announced.

Highlights from the 26 films announced are:

Demolition (Jean-Marc Vallée) – TIFF 2015 opening night film starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a Wall Street financier whose wife dies in a car accident. He’s left to pick up the pieces – or in this case, tear them apart. Also stars Naomi Watts and Chris Cooper.

Sunset Song (Terrance Davies) – An adaptation of the classic Scottish novel of the same name, Sunset Song centers around a Scottish farm worker (Agyness Deyn) who sees family trauma merge into global catastrophe as the first world war devastates her village.

From Afar (Lorenzo Vigas) – This début feature from writer-director Lorenzo Vigas won the 2015 Golden Lion (the highest prize) at the 2015 Venice Film Festival. Armando, a 50-year-old man, seeks young men in Caracas and pays them just for company. One day he meets Elder, a 17-year-old boy and that meeting changes their lives forever.

Morris From America (Chad Hartigan) – Follows an African-American teenager adjusting uneasily to his new life in Heidelberg, Germany. This has been on our watch list since the reactions from Sundance, where it won the Special Jury Prize & Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award.

No Home Movie (Chantal Akerman) – The late avant-garde Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman moving portrait of her relationship with her mother, a Polish immigrant and Auschwitz survivor. Akerman passed away last year.

A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers (Geeta Gandbhir, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy) -Follows a predominantly Muslim unit of 160 women police officers sent to post-earthquake Haiti as UN Peacekeepers for one year. Both directors will be attending the festival, with co-director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s Oscar-winning short A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness also screening.

Weiner (Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg) – Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance 2016, the documentary follows former congressman Anthony Weiner in his attempt to overcome a sexting scandal and run for mayor of New York City – only to be felled, by another sexting scandal.
 
Full list of films announced

Features: Demolition, Maggie’s Plan, Everybody Wants Some!!, Sing Street, Sunset Song, The Commune, A Copy of My Mind, Angry Indian Goddesses, From Afar, Francofonia, A War, Mustang, Tharlo, The Devil’s Candy, Magallanes, Morris From America, Under the Shadow.

Documentaries: Weiner, A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (short), Sonita, Heart of a Dog, Janis: Little Girl Blue, Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected, Mr Gaga, No Home Movie.

Scorsese retrospective: Mean Streets, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Taxi Driver, New York, New York, Raging Bull, The King Of Comedy, Goodfellas, The Age Of Innocence, Casino, The Aviator

Full programme announced Wednesday 11 May.