Mar 172015

In cinemas this week: ’71, Big Eyes, Love is Strange, Home, Insurgent and Run All Night. 


’71 takes place over a single night in the life of a young British soldier (Jack O’Connell) accidentally abandoned by his unit following a riot on the streets of Belfast in 1971. Unable to tell friend from foe, and increasingly wary of his own comrades, he must survive the night alone and find his way to safety through a disorientating, alien and deadly landscape. Been hearing great things about this war thriller for a while now – including the fact that it features another sterling performance from O’Connell and welcomes an exciting new voice in Yann Demange. I feel like this is essential viewing.

Big Eyes – Directed and produced by Tim Burton, Big Eyes is based on the true story of Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz), who was one of the most successful painters of the 1950s and early 1960s. The artist earned staggering notoriety by revolutionizing the commercialization and accessibility of popular art with his enigmatic paintings of waifs with big eyes. The truth would eventually be discovered though: Keane’s art was actually not created by him at all, but by his wife, Margaret (Amy Adams). The Keanes, it seemed, had been living a lie that had grown to gigantic proportions. Big Eyes centers on Margaret’s awakening as an artist, the phenomenal success of her paintings, and her tumultuous relationship with her husband, who was catapulted to international fame while taking credit for her work. I am more interested in this for Adams and Waltz than Burton, but it is nice to see a departure from the norm for the veteran director.

Love is Strange – After nearly four decades together, Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) finally tie the knot in an idyllic wedding ceremony in lower Manhattan. But when George loses his job soon after, the couple must sell their apartment and – victims of the relentless New York City real estate market – temporarily live apart until they can find an affordable new home. While George moves in with two cops (Cheyenne Jackson and Manny Perez) who live down stairs, Ben lands in Brooklyn with his nephew (Darren Burrows), his wife (Marisa Tomei), and their temperamental teenage son (Charlie Tahan), with whom Ben shares a bedroom. While struggling with the pain of separation, Ben and George are further challenged by the intergenerational tensions and capricious family dynamics of their new living arrangements. This is a pleasant, but unfocused film. After a promising start this never quite delivers on all its themes. It dwells on inconsequential subplots, but when Molina and Lithgow get together it excels. It is competently made and the performances are quite strong, but the touching messages entwined within the story wither away shortly after viewing.

Home – When Oh, a loveable misfit from another planet, lands on Earth and finds himself on the run from his own people, he forms an unlikely friendship with an adventurous girl named Tip who is on a quest of her own. Through a series of comic adventures with Tip, Oh comes to understand that being different and making mistakes is all part of being human. And while he changes her planet and she changes his world, they discover the true meaning of the word HOME. I think I’ll pass on this.

Insurgent raises the stakes for Tris as she searches for allies and answers in the ruins of a futuristic Chicago. Tris (Woodley) and Four (James) are now fugitives on the run, hunted by Jeanine (Winslet), the leader of the power-hungry Erudite elite. Racing against time, they must find out what Tris’s family sacrificed their lives to protect, and why the Erudite leaders will do anything to stop them. Haunted by her past choices but desperate to protect the ones she loves, Tris, with Four at her side, faces one impossible challenge after another as they unlock the truth about the past and ultimately the future of their world. I still haven’t seen Divergent, but I haven’t heard to much positive about it, so I will give this a miss too.

Run all Night – Liam Neeson reunites with Unknown director Jaume Collet-Serra for this Warner Bros. thriller following a mob hit-man and his estranged son (Joel Kinnaman) as they flee the wrath of a vengeful crime boss. I liked Unknown, but I well and truly have Neeson fatigue.

Weekly Recommendation – ’71 looks to be the most promising of the pack, and I intend to have see it and Big Eyes by the end of the weekend. Love is Strange is worth a look, but I wouldn’t stress about seeing it in cinemas. 

Feb 052015


With SelmaBig Eyes and Inherent Vice all pushed from this February 5 date, we are left with a pretty quiet week. In cinemas today we have Kingsman: The Secret Service, The Gambler and Me, Myself and Mum.

Kingsman: The Secret Service – Based upon the acclaimed comic book and directed by Matthew Vaughn (Kick Ass, X-Men First Class), tells the story of a super-secret spy organisation that recruits an unrefined but promising street kid into the agency’s ultra-competitive training program just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius. I haven’t liked Vaughn’s previous films very much, but this looks like a lot of stylish, tongue-in-cheek fun.

The Gambler – Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) is a risk taker. Both an English professor and a high-stakes gambler, Bennett bets it all when he borrows from a gangster (Michael Kenneth Williams) and offers his own life as collateral. Always one step ahead, Bennett pits his creditor against the operator of a gambling ring (Alvin Ing) and leaves his dysfunctional relationship with his wealthy mother (Jessica Lange) in his wake. He plays both sides, immersing himself in an illicit, underground world while garnering the attention of Frank (John Goodman), a loan shark with a paternal interest in Bennett’s future. As his relationship with a student (Brie Larson) deepens, Bennett must take the ultimate risk for a second chance. I suspect it isn’t going to be a very popular film with the general public (and it has been unfavourably reviewed) but I was completely engrossed by The Gambler. Review at the link.

Me, Myself and Mum – A cheerful and inventive comic confessional about Guillaume Gallienne’s upbringing, his relations with his mother, and his eventual embracing of his inner heterosexual after growing up as a female-identified boy whom everyone assumes is gay. I believe this screened at last year’s French Film Festival and I heard some murmurs of praise. Limited release only, I imagine.

Weekly Recommendation: With ‘Kingsmen’ yet unseen, I can only suggest ‘The Gambler’.

Oct 312014


October has been quiet. Let’s chalk that up to a combination of recovering from TIFF, having the flu (it sucked) and the cinemas being a little quieter than usual. I only watched 17 films in October, but the quality was really high. Six of the films I watched this month made by ‘Best Films of 2014 (Australian Release Schedule)‘ list; and two films made me cry…My October monthly round-up is after the jump.

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 Posted by at 21:17
Jul 212014

Well this looks fun. Set in a fictional city which is San Fran meets Tokyo, a super intelligent boy named Hiro Hamada and he robot he built (Baymax) stumble across a criminal plot and pull together a team of inexperienced crime-fighters to bring down the baddies.

I wasn’t surprised to learn it’s based on a Marvel superhero team of the same name, if anything, I’m surprised that it’s taken this long for Disney to include Marvel characters in an original animated film.

My only question – why couldn’t the super nerdy science genius be a girl? Just saying….

The film is set for a release in Australia on Boxing Day, the same spot Frozen opened in last year and Wreck it Ralph the year before.

Mar 032014


The 86th Academy Awards have been handed out at a ceremony in Los Angeles, with Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave taking home the coveted best picture Oscar. The film also picked up best supporting actress for Lupita Nyong’o and best adapted screenplay. While it didn’t win best picture, Gravity won an impressive total 7 Oscars, including best director and best cinematography. The utterly adorable Spike Jonze look home best original screenplay for Her. Best speech should go to Cate Blanchett who gave the ladies a shout-out, remarking “the world is round people”, people want to see female-lead films and they make money. Girl power indeed!! Fellow Australian Catherine Martin became Australia’s most prolific Oscar winner, taking home 2 awards tonight (costume and production design) for Gatsby, which brings her career total to 4 golden statues.

Ellen DeGengeres hosted a mostly amusing ceremony, with the host knowing how far she could push her jokes without actually offending anyone. I loved the opening and thought the pizza gag was the joke that kept on giving. She also managed to break twitter with the most retweeted photo ever. I hope The Academy welcomes Ellen back in 2015.

The full list of the 86th Academy Award winners is after the jump.

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 Posted by at 16:14
Jan 202014

The SAG and PGA award winners have been announced, tightening up the race for the Oscars.

First the SAGs – with Jared Leto, Matthew McConaghey and Cate Blanchett  repeating their Golden Globe wins, these three are the clear favourites in their respective categories.  I think Leonardo DiCaprio could potentially upset McConaghey, but it’s hard to see either Leto or Blanchett not taking hold the coveted Oscar statues.

Lupta Nyong’o won outstanding female actor in a supporting role for her powerful performance in 12 Years A Slave. It’s going to be a tough to call between Jennifer Lawrence (for American Hustle  -she won the Globe) and Nyong’o in the supporting female actor race at the Oscars. Oscar-winner Lawrence is much-loved and has the much-admired David O. Russell behind her; but I feel that this category belongs to Nyong’o. Her performance was just so incredibly commanding – even more so when you consider this is her first major role acting role.

The PGAs surprised everyone (and made it harder to pick a clear best picture favourite) by awarding the top prize to two films (a tie), for the first time in the guild’s 25 year history. 12 Years A Slave and Gravity were jointly awarded The Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures. This award often gives the clearest indicator of the front-runner for the best picture Oscar…not this year!

The PGA for outstanding producer of a documentary was awarded to the Wikileaks doco, We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks which didn’t even make the short-list of 15 documentaries for the Oscar nomination. Frozen picked up best producer of an animated film, cementing its place as the front-runner for best animated Oscar.

While it’s not eligible for any Oscars, it was nice to see Behind the Candelabra pick up two wins from the guild awards – Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries (Michael Douglas) and The David L. Wolper Award for Outstanding Producer of Long-Form Television.

With only the WGA, DGA and BAFTA awards left (from the big awards), the Oscar race is certainly starting to have very clear favourites in some categories, while in others it is wide open.

Oh I do love award season!

The full list of SAG and PGA award winners (film/miniseries & TV Movie categories) are after the jump.


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Oct 312013

Happy Halloween!

I’m not much of a horror buff, but I can safely say Candyman is the scariest film I have ever seen. I was around 8 or 9 and I crept into the living room where my parents were watching it and hid behind the sofa. This was probably not one of the smartest decisions I’ve ever made…The images from this film haunted my dreams throughout much of my childhood. I still can’t say ANY name in front of mirror multiple times. Come to think of it, perhaps this film is responsible for my irrational fear of bees and wasps (along with My Girl, which still upsets me).

Scream is another film that lingered in my mind for years afterwards. I watched this at a sleepover with 4 or 5 other girls when I was about 11 or 12. I remember trembling and being too freaked out to use the bathroom. I called my Mum as soon as the sun came up and got her to take me home. Stupidly, I also watched Scream 2, which also played with my mind. I felt unconformable using the bathrooms at the cinema for some time after that film. I still feel uneasy when I see people in costume, wearing that mask.
What is the scariest film you have ever seen? Is there something that has stuck in your mind, long after the credits have rolled? It may not even be considered scary or a horror, but for whatever reason, it’s one that has had an impact on you.
By Sam McCosh