May 172016
 

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Before Spectre hit cinemas I vowed to watch all of the preceding James Bond films as is par the course for a serious film buff. Unfortunately, two weeks was not long enough – I think I managed to squeeze in five. So, since Spectre back in November I have been slowly working my way through the rest. As recommended by a friend I watched them in a unique order, starting with the oldest (Dr No) and then flipping back to the newest (Skyfall), before watching one from each end before hitting For Your Eyes Only in the middle. This method leaves you with a lot of Moore consecutively, but this wasn’t so bad. Worse was ricocheting between bad Brosnan and bad Connery.

Now, I wasn’t a die hard Bond fan before this all started and I can’t call myself one now either, but my expectations for this series were certainly eclipsed. I had heard nothing but bad things about the Moore entries, and I expected to struggle with the dated effects, blatant sexism and racism. But, I found most of them to be a lot of fun.

I would like to thank the very generous Garth Franklin at Dark Horizons for lending me the blu-rays and for his inquisitions about each film whenever we hang out.

Now, I haven’t drawn any particularly enlightening conclusions about the franchise – this was purely for entertainment – and my reverse rankings of all 24 Bond films (excluding Never Say Never Again, due to my inability to access it) are personal and, I expect, widely disagreeable. You can check them out after the jump. There will be some minor spoilers to follow, so proceed with that in mind.

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May 152016
 

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With 244 films screening, picking which films to see at the 2016 Sydney Film Festival can be an overwhelming experience. We’ve combed through the impressive programme and have selected 12 films we think are must-sees at this year’s festival. The films we have picked included Afghani cinefiles, a vampire-mermaid, an escape into virtual reality, and Daniel Radcliffe’s farting corpse.

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May 122016
 

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The 2016 Sydney Film Festival programme has been announced and tickets are now on sale at the festival’s website.

In 2016 the Festival will present 244 films from 60 countries including 25 World Premieres. The festival has secured some titles direct from Cannes, including It’s Only The End Of The World, Aquarius and Psycho Raman. This year there is a focus on Ireland, a look at Korea, and a showcase of European Women filmmakers.

There is so much to digest! Check back in a couple of days for our picks for you must-sees at this year’s festival. Happy scheduling everyone!

May 122016
 

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In cinemas this week: Whisky Tango Foxtrot, The Angry Birds Movie, Bastille Day, Green Room, Remember and The First Monday in May. 

Whisky Tango Foxtrot In 2002, cable news producer Kim Barker (Tina Fey) decides to shake up her routine by taking a daring new assignment in Kabul, Afghanistan. Dislodged from her comfortable American lifestyle, Barker finds herself in the middle of an out-of-control war zone. Luckily, she meets Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie), a fellow journalist who takes the shellshocked reporter under her wing. Amid the militants, warlords and nighttime partying, Barker discovers the key to becoming a successful correspondent. A likeable cast, but one perhaps suited for home viewing in a few months. 

The Angry Birds Movie – Flightless birds lead a mostly happy existence, except for Red (Jason Sudeikis), who just can’t get past the daily annoyances of life. His temperament leads him to anger management class, where he meets fellow misfits Chuck (Josh Gad) and Bomb. Red becomes even more agitated when his feathered brethren welcome green pigs to their island paradise. As the swine begin to get under his skin, Red joins forces with Chuck and Bomb to investigate the real reason behind their mysterious arrival. Excellent voice-cast, but why does this film exist? 

Bastille Day – Michael Mason (Richard Madden) is an American pickpocket living in Paris who finds himself hunted by the CIA when he steals a bag that contains more than just a wallet. Sean Briar (Idris Elba), the field agent on the case, soon realizes that Michael is just a pawn in a much bigger game and is also his best asset to uncover a large-scale conspiracy. Going against commands, Briar recruits Michael to use his expert pickpocketing skills to help quickly track down the source of the corruption. As a 24hr thrill ride ensues, the unlikely duo discover they are both targets and must rely upon each other in order to take down a common enemy. Idris Elba and Richard Madden should elevate this (on paper) by-the-numbers action thriller, but it doesn’t seem essential.

Green Room Down on their luck punk rockers The Ain’t Rights are finishing up a long and unsuccessful tour, and are about to call it quits when they get an unexpected booking at an isolated, run-down club deep in the backwoods of Oregon. What seems merely to be a third-rate gig escalates into something much more sinister when they witness an act of violence backstage that they weren’t meant to see. Now trapped backstage, they must face off against the club’s depraved owner, Darcy Banker (Patrick Stewart), a man who will do anything to protect the secrets of his nefarious enterprise. But while Darcy and his henchmen think the band will be easy to get rid of, The Ain’t Rights prove themselves much more cunning and capable than anyone expected, turning the tables on their unsuspecting captors and setting the stage for the ultimate life-or-death showdown. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Jeremy Saulnier’s much-lauded Blue Ruin, but this looks incredibly intense and likely to leave a mark.

Remember – With help from a fellow Holocaust survivor (Martin Landau), a widower (Christopher Plummer) who struggles with memory loss embarks on a cross-country odyssey to find the former Nazi responsible for the deaths of their family members.

The First Monday in May – The First Monday in May follows the creation of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s most attended fashion exhibition in history, “China: Through The Looking Glass,” an exploration of Chinese-inspired Western fashions by Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton. With unprecedented access, filmmaker Andrew Rossi captures the collusion of high fashion and celebrity at the Met Gala, one of the biggest global fashion events chaired every year by Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour.

Weekly Recommendation – Political satire Whisky Tanko Foxtrot looks like a fun night out at the cinema, but if you’re looking for something a little more scarring we recommend Green Room. Heard nothing but great things, and we’ll be hunting down a session this weekend.

May 102016
 

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The 2016 addition of the Cannes Film Festival, arguably the World’s most prestigious festival, is about to kick off in France. This year there is an unusually high 21 films competing for the Palm d’Or, after Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman was a late addition to the official competition. Outside of the official competition, films also screen in the Un Certain Regard section, as well as at a number of out of competition and special screenings.

With so much on, what is there to look out for? Well, we’ll be paying close attention to the reactions to the films listed after the jump.

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May 072016
 

Bad Neighbours 2 (also known as Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising) is not only consistently funny throughout but also proves to be plugged into very-present identity politics and the social zeitgeist. It sets a breakneck pace as the Radner’s (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) find themselves embroiled in a new turf war – one that places the pending sale of their home at risk – and must turn to frat king, and former enemy, Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron), to help them.

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May 052016
 

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In cinemas this week: Bad Neighbours 2, Florence Foster Jenkins, Mia Madre and The Man Who Knew Infinity 

Bad Neighbours 2 – Life is good for Mac Radner (Seth Rogen) and pregnant wife Kelly (Rose Byrne), until the unruly sisters of Kappa Nu, led by Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz), move in next door. As loud parties continuously disrupt the peace, the couple turn to former neighbour and onetime enemy Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) for help. Now united with the fraternity stud, the trio devises schemes to get the wild sorority off the block. Unfortunately, the rebellious young women refuse to go down without a fight. While the sorority sisters don’t have as much depth as the preceding fraternity dude-bros this sequel, despite suffering from some pitfalls, has a breakneck pace, maintains laughs throughout and has some absolutely stinging scenes/lines. It serves as a millennial study of generation gaps, gender equality and female empowerment, while still exploring the trials and tribulations of parenthood. Every moment with some combination of Rogen/Byrne/Efron is gold. 

Florence Foster Jenkins – The story of Florence Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep), a New York heiress who dreamed of becoming an opera singer despite having a terrible singing voice. There seems to be a recent obsession with this talentless celebrity, and I can’t imagine this being particularly compelling with Steven Frears at the helm.

Mia Madre – Acclaimed Italian auteur Nanni Moretti returns to brilliant form with his semi-autobiographical new film starring Margherita Buy as a director struggling to balance life and art. Margherita (Buy) is directing a new social drama, set against the backdrop of an industrial dispute. Try as she may to remain professional, the emotional turmoil of her private life is taking a toll: an affair with one of her actors (Enrico Ianniello) has come to an end, her adolescent daughter (Beatrice Mancini) is failing Latin, but most troubling is the recent hospitalization of her formidable, beloved mother Ada (Giulia Lazzarini).  Meanwhile, the famous American actor Barry Huggins (the fabulous John Turturro) has arrived, a needy and capricious personality whose brash presence on set sees things go from bad to worse, and whose general ineptitude might finally push Margherita over the edge. It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year, and has won a bunch of Italian Oscars. Should be very good.

The Man Who Knew Infinity is the true story of friendship that forever changed mathematics. In 1913, Srinivasa Ramanujan (Dev Patel), a self-taught Indian mathematics genius, traveled to Trinity College, Cambridge, where over the course of five years, forged a bond with his mentor, the brilliant and eccentric professor, G.H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons), and fought against prejudice to reveal his mathematic genius to the world. Plays it pretty safe, but the endearing performances from Patel and Irons bring this largely-unknown (I imagine) story of a mathematics trailblazer to life.

Weekly recommendation – We’re keen to catch up with the acclaimed Mia Madre, after missing it at last year’s Italian Film Festival, and Bad Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising is a worthy sequel that is amongst the top comedies of the year to date.

May 042016
 

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So, in April I decided to pick up the viewing pace after a slow month prior and ended up with 33 films viewed and 16 episodes of TV. Only six of these were cinema visits (of which I reviewed three). The home viewing was split between March/April DTV releases that interested me, Bond films (I caught five, and now only have three left to watch), and John Carpenter films. The Prince of Darkness, which I had only ever seen lukewarm reactions for, turned out to be my favourite film of the month.

Goosebumps update: I have now read 48 of the original 62, so that was another 26 in April. Keep an eye out for an article about this very interesting experience, and every Goosebumps book ranked, in mid May. Other books read this month included Jonathan Ames’ very funny Wake Up Sir and Charlotte Wood’s punishingly bleak The Natural Way of Things. 

I finished the remarkable Uncharted 2, and completed a good chunk of Uncharted 3. It’s solid, but it has some clunky shooting mechanics and a far less compelling story. Kanye’s The Life of Pablo and Kevin Morby’s Singing Saw would be my favourite new albums this month.

Coming up in May: the completion of some projects – Goosebumps and Bond, notably – and hopefully a stack of pre-Sydney Film Festival screeners to enjoy. Check out my thoughts on the new-to-me films after the jump:

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