Jun 262016
 

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After looking forward to it for so long, it’s hard to believe that another Sydney Film Festival is done and dusted. The quality of films was exceedingly high this year, and we had a wonderful time at the festival. Thanks and congratulations to the entire festival team and all of the volunteers.

The Sydney Film Prize (the prize given to the winner of the Official Competition) was this year awarded to Kleber Mondonca Filho’s Aquarius, which also happened to be our favourite film from the festival. The Audience Award (Feature) was awarded to Deniz Gamze Ergüven’ s Mustang; while the Audience Award (Documentary) went to Australian documentary Zach’s Ceremony, directed by Aaron Petersen. 

After the jump we have picked out favourite films, performances, music, cinematography, and other achievements, from the films we saw at the festival. For context, Sam saw 40 films and Andy saw 49 – about 1/5 of what was playing. These selections are purely based on what we saw, and we have no doubt we missed some gems – please let us know what they are! We highly recommend you seek out any of the films mentioned in our “awards” after the jump.

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May 172016
 

RogerMoore_007

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 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.

Jan 032016
 

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Another year gone. I finished up with 286 films viewed in 2015, which is the lowest total for several years. A number of things contributed to the lower viewing count, including reading more, watching more TV, studying, and doing everyday life stuff like gardening. I don’t think this was the strongest year for film, but in saying that, I still struggled to select only 25 for my Favourite Films of 2015 list.  Check out everything I watched in December after the jump.

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 Posted by at 20:15
Jun 172015
 

love&mercy

Thanks to Icon Films , we have 5 x double passes to give away to LOVE & MERCY – in Australian cinemas from June 25.

 
The official synopsis is as follows:

We all know the music, but few know the true story of musical genius, Brian Wilson and his struggles with brilliance and balance. LOVE & MERCY paints an unconventional portrait of the artist by interweaving seminal moments from his youth and later life. The role of Brian Wilson is masterfully shared between Paul Dano (12 Years a Slave, Little Miss Sunshine) as the younger, 1960s Brian; and John Cusack (Maps to the Stars, High Fidelity) as Wilson in the 1980s. The film explores the many challenges Brian has faced, both from his point of view in his younger years; and from the perspective of his now wife, Melinda (Elizabeth Banks) when she meets Brian in his 40s and under the questionable medical care of Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti). The Beach Boys were already experiencing chart topping success with Surfin’ Safari, I Get Around, Help Me Rhonda, California Girls and Good Vibrations when Brian found himself driven to move in a new musical direction. Whilst this would ultimately lead to the creation of what is widely ranked as one of the greatest albums of all time – Pet Sounds -and songs like
Wouldn’t It Be Nice, Sloop John B and God Only Knows; it also lead to the band breaking up and Brian breaking down.

 

Check out the An Online Universe review of Love & Mercy here.
 
To Win
Tell us what your favourite Beach Boys song is.

Send your answers, along with your name and postal address to sam@anonlineuniverse.com by 9pm on Thursday 25 June, 2015.

Check out the terms & conditions of the competition after the jump.

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Apr 232015
 

Robert Downey Jr.

In cinemas this week: Avengers: Age of Ultron, Testament of Youth, Banksy Does New York and Boychoir. 

Avengers: Age of UltronWith S.H.I.E.L.D now destroyed, it has been left up to The Avengers to eliminate the considerable global threats. In need of a hiatus, Tony Stark re-commences a long dormant peacekeeping program called Ultron, which he developed with Dr. Bruce Banner, a self-aware artificial intelligence. But, as is commonly the case when scientists create something in their own image, it turns on them. Ultron (voiced to perfection by James Spader), who is overwhelmed with a God Complex, turns on Stark and decides that to keep the peace on Earth he must eradicate the human race. The squad are called to swift action, and Ultron finds his own allies in the powerful twins Pietro/Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). This is a thrilling end of phase two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with new films for Iron Man, Thor and Captain America as well as Guardians of the Galaxy coming since the last Avengers film three years ago. While the trailers suggest that this would take on a much darker tone, I can assure you that all of the fun remains. Full thoughts at the link. 

Testament of Youth is a searing story of love and war. Based on the classic First World War memoir from Vera Brittain, this is the incredible true story of one young woman’s struggle to survive the horrors of war, which robbed her of everyone and everything she held dear, but was ultimately unable to break her extraordinary spirit. This is a well-acted, elegant, gorgeously photographed and stirring study of a generation’s war-torn love, hope and opportunity. I feared it was going to be too war-lite for a while, but the direction manages to avoid soppy sentimentality quite deftly. Plus you get to see Alicia Vikander in an array of cute hats.

Banksy Does New York – A chronicle of British street artist Banksy’s “Better Out Than In” project, a surreptitious residency in New York City boroughs that drew a devoted following eager to find a new piece for each day in October 2013. My interest in Banksy piqued immediately after Exit Through the Gift Shop, which is a brilliant documentary. I haven’t thought about him much since then but if I get the chance to watch this on home entertainment release I will.

Boychoir – From acclaimed director François Girard (The Red Violin) comes the inspirational story of a rebellious kid with a remarkable gift who is challenged by a demanding teacher to make the most unlikely of dreams come true. A stellar ensemble – including two-time Oscar-winner Dustin Hoffman, Oscar-winner Kathy Bates and two-time Emmy winner Eddie Izzard, along with Debra Winger, Josh Lucas, and Kevin McHale – headline a cast that also introduces an exciting group of newcomers as the young singers who battle each other as they take their boychoir to the competitive heights. Almost saw this at TIFF last year, but favoured others. It looks like quite a pleasant family drama.

Weekly Recommendation: I have only seen Age of Ultron and Testament of Youth. Will Ultron chase down Furious 7 at the Box Office? The latter has set a mark untouchable for seemingly everything not called The Avengers. If you are venturing to the cinema this weekend, I expect it will be for The Avengers, but if you have time for something else I can recommend the affecting war drama Testament of Youth.

Apr 012015
 

Slow West

It’s hard to believe it but the first Sydney Film Festival announcement of 2015 is here!

The 62nd Sydney Film Festival today announced 27 new films to be featured in this year’s June (3-14) event, plus an Ingmar Bergman retrospective curated by film critic and former co-host of ‘At the Movies’, David Stratton.

Among the first titles announced today are:

Australian-Irish thriller Strangerland, starring Nicole Kidman,Joseph Fiennes and Hugo Weaving

Slow West, a new twist on the classic western starring Michael Fassbender, with Australians Kodi Smit-McPhee and Ben MendelsohnWinner of the Sundance World Cinema Grand Jury Prize

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief  from veteran documentarian Alex Gibney

Peter Strickland’s The Duke of Burgundy, a stylish erotic melodrama about a lesbian S&M relationship

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, from Swedish director Roy Andersson. Winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

The Look of Silence, the highly anticipated follow-up to Joshua Oppenheimer’s powerful The Act of Killing

99 Homes, a thriller about the 2008 global financial crisis starring Michael Shannon and Andrew Garfield

Love & Mercy, the Brian Wilson/Beach Boys biopic starring John Cusack and Paul Dano

 

Selected by David Stratton, the Bergman retrospective includes The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Persona, Cries and Whispers and Fanny and Alexander.  Another retrospective is 54: The Director’s Cut. The painstakingly restored version of 54, the controversial 1998 melodrama about New York’s hedonistic disco heyday reintroduces the homoerotic into a film that had been subject to reshoots and cuts on its original release.

In 2015 the Festival extends its reach even further to include Sydney’s Inner West, bringing around 20 screenings, including highlights of the popular Freak Me Out program of horror and midnight fare, to Dendy Newtown. Also announced today is a newly enhanced program of family and kids’ films, including the Academy Award-nominated Irish animated feature Song of the Sea.

 

The full Sydney Film Festival programme will be announced on May 6. Flexipasses and subscriptions to are on sale now at http://www.sff.org.au

 Posted by at 06:00