Aug 102015
 

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Having seen a substantial amount of films in Sydney at our annual international film festival, the weekend my wife and I had pre-programme booked offered risky choices. Unfamiliar with most of the 9 films on our schedule, we were either in for plenty of surprises, or some endurance tests. In the end it was a bit of a mixed bag. Great weekend, though. While the escape from the hustle and bustle of Sydney city life, for the slightly colder, greyer and more relaxed hustle of the Melbourne inner city was a necessary one, we made the most of our limited time. In addition to the films, we met up with many of our dear friends for lunch and dinner and satisfied our inner-Bowie with a visit to the excellent ACMI ‘Bowie Is’ exhibition. You can find a quick analysis of all films viewed after the jump:

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Jul 032015
 

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Fresh off Inherent Vice, Paul Thomas Anderson will write and possibly direct a live-action version of Pinocchio for Warner Brothers … wait, what?!?

Apparently, Anderson is a buddy with Robert Downey Jr. who is set to play Geppetto; so somebody is cashing in a favour.  Best explanation: Downey dropped out of Inherent Vice and was replaced by Joaquin Phoenix.  Worst explanation: one of them knows where the bodies are buried.  Maybe Anderson just wants to build his dream pool?  He deserves it.

While hardcore Anderson fans cry “sellout”, it’s quite common for known filmmakers to have a screenplay smudge on their resume, albeit, most of these credits are early in their careers, but a screenwriting credit and payday nonetheless.

While the final product may not represent the filmmaker’s work on the script, with subsequent rewrites and the work of un-credited script doctors, it wasn’t an experience humiliating enough for them to use a pseudonym.  Plus hindsight makes this exercise lot easier, so enjoy the seven filmmakers with dents in their resumes.

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Apr 302015
 

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This month I focused more on watching television. I set myself a goal to watch a number of shows in their entirety, and succeeded. Mostly. I also managed to watch quite a few films (24) – more on VOD at home than in the cinema, surprisingly enough. We did attend the Avengers: Age of Ultron premiere, which was a fun night, but that was the only screening. We set ourselves an enlightening Easter long weekend marathon – to watch a number of filmmakers’ debut films. Andrea Arnold, Jean-Luc Godard and Christopher Nolan amongst them.

I continued to work my way through Dragon Age: Inquisition on the PS4 and am nearing the conclusion. If I play a better game in 2015 I am a lucky newly-inspired gamer.

You can check out some brief thoughts on everything I have watched in April after the jump: Continue reading »

Mar 292015
 

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Shaun the Sheep Movie is a stop-motion animated feature produced by the brilliant Bristol-based animation studio, Aardman Animations (famous for feature films Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Chicken Run and Arthur Christmas), and is adapted by co writer/directors Richard Starzak and Mark Burton from the popular 2007 Shaun the Sheep television series.

Many will remember first being introduced to Shaun in Nick Park’s amazing 1995 Academy Award-winning short film Wallace and Gromit: A Close Shave. Park has been working with Aardman for decades, notably directing Chicken Run and The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, the latter of which also won an Oscar, and creating the spin-off aforementioned series that influenced this hilarious, inventive, brilliantly animated, and quintessentially British family entertainment. With Paddington warming hearts over the Christmas break, it pays to go British for the kiddies.  Continue reading »

Mar 252015
 

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In cinemas this week: InfinitelyPolar Bear, Shaun the Sheep, Leviathan,  Cinderella, A Little Chaos, Get Hard and Dior and I.

Infinitely Polar Bear –  Maggie (Zoe Saldana) and Cam (Mark Ruffalo) have a loving, but volatile relationship. Cam is a diagnosed manic-depressive, and while his love for his wife and two daughters is undeniable, he can’t always keep an even keel. After a particularly frightening manic episode, Maggie leaves Cam and moves the family to Boston. Cam is forced to live in temporary single accommodation. Despite Cam’s wealthy family and Maggie’s infallible work ethic, the family struggles to make ends meet. When Maggie is offered a full scholarship to study business at Columbia, she is elated – this is their ticket out of poverty. However, this means leaving Faith and Amelia (Imogene Wolodarsky) in the full-time care of her father. Maggie and Cam decide to take the leap, and through his extreme highs and extreme lows, he cares for the girls while Maggie works hard to secure them a better future. Continue reading Sam’s review from An Online Universe at the link.

Shaun the Sheep – When Shaun’s mischief inadvertently leads to the Farmer being taken away from the farm, Shaun, Bitzer and the flock have to go into the big city to rescue him, setting the stage for an epic adventure. Meant to be great, plus it is from the creators of Wallace and Gromit.

Leviathan – The latest drama from Andrey Zvyagintsev, the acclaimed director of The Return (Venice Film Festival Golden Lion winner). Kolya (Alexeï Serebriakov) lives in a small fishing town near the stunning Barents Sea in Northern Russia. He owns an auto-repair shop that stands right next to the house where he lives with his young wife Lilya (Elena Liadova) and his son Roma (Sergueï Pokhodaev) from a previous marriage. Isolated in a desolate coastal boneyard, an aging patriarch battles a corrupt official seeking to purchase the land his home stands upon and then finds his cherished relationships begin to crumble around him as a result. Marvellously constructed and photographed, this is a gut-wrenching story of a proud Everyman whose oppression grows increasingly closer, eventually enveloping everything he cares for and has stakes in.

Cinderella – When her father unexpectedly passes away, young Ella finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and her daughters. Never one to give up hope, Ella’s fortunes begin to change after meeting a dashing stranger. Starring Lily James, Cate Blanchet and James Madden, this revisionist take on the Disney classic is directed by Kenneth Branagh and supposed to be quite good.

A Little Chaos – A romantic drama following Sabine (Academy Award winner Kate Winslet), a strong-willed and talented landscape designer, who is chosen to build one of the main gardens at King Louis XIV’s new palace at Versailles. In her new position of power, she challenges gender and class barriers while also becoming professionally and romantically entangled with the court’s renowned landscape artist André Le Notre (Matthias Schoenaerts). Directed by Alan Rickman this had its premiere at TIFF last year, and met petty negative responses. Still, should be light entertainment, and worth a look for the Winslet/Schoenaerts match-up.

Get Hard – Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart headline this Warner Bros. comedy about a wrongfully convicted investment banker who prepares for prison life with the help of the man who washes his car. Etan Cohen directs, with Ian Roberts and Jay Martel handling screenwriting duties. Eh.

Dior and I – Frédéric Tcheng’s solo directorial debut brings the viewer inside the storied world of the Christian Dior fashion house with a privileged, behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Raf Simons’ first haute couture collection as its new artistic director-a true labor of love created by a dedicated group of collaborators. Melding the everyday, pressure-filled components of fashion with mysterious echoes from the iconic brand’s past, the film is also a colorful homage to the seamstresses who serve Simons’ vision.

Weekly Recommendation: Infinitely Polar Bear is a warm, loving film, an endearingly personal study of family togetherness through tough times. The performances are terrific. I am not sure I ever want to watch Leviathan again, but it feels like a true testament to Crime and Punishment, a painful epic of human drama with bold contemporary commentary. I definitely want to see Shaun the Sheep, and am genuinely intrigued by Alan Rickman’s A Little Chaos. Something for everyone this week, as it should be. 

Feb 122015
 

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New to cinemas this week are Selma, Citizen Four, The Interview, Fifty Shades of Grey and What We Did On Our Holiday. 

Selma is the story of a movement. The film chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. The epic march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories for the civil rights movement. Director Ava DuVernay’s Selma tells the real story of how the revered leader and visionary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo, a mighty performance) and his brothers and sisters in the movement prompted change that forever altered history. This is a very significant film, immensely powerful and superbly written, directed and performed, that was shamefully overlooked at the Oscars this year. It is focused, and yet bigger than the great man at the heart of this period of history.

Citizen Four – In January 2013, Laura Poitras (recipient of the 2012 MacArthur Genius Fellowship and co-recipient of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service) was several years into making a film about surveillance in the post-9/11 era when she started receiving encrypted e-mails from someone identifying himself as “Citizen Four,” who was ready to blow the whistle on the massive covert surveillance programs run by the NSA and other intelligence agencies. In June 2013, she and Glenn Greenwald flew to Hong Kong for the first of many meetings with the man who turned out to be Edward Snowden. She brought her camera with her. The film that resulted from this series of tense encounters is absolutely sui generis in the history of cinema: a 100% real-life thriller unfolding minute by minute before our eyes. Citizen Four has won just about every major Documentary award, and is the firm favourite to win the Oscar. It has been called by one critic the ‘film of the 21st Century’. It will be essential viewing.

The Interview – In this action-comedy, Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his producer Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen) run the popular celebrity tabloid TV show “Skylark Tonight.” When they discover that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is a fan of the show, they land an interview with him in an attempt to legitimize themselves as journalists. As Dave and Aaron prepare to travel to Pyongyang, their plans change when the CIA recruits them, perhaps the two least-qualified men imaginable, to assassinate Kim Jong-un. The laughs do dry up in this very silly (but not dumb) film for a while, but whenever the Franco/Rogen bromance is on show it is consistently hilarious. Not worthy of all of the fuss, which is the unfortunate baggage everyone has to take into it.

Fifty Shades of Grey – E.L. James’ kinky best-seller gets the big screen treatment with this Universal Pictures/Focus Features co-production. The steamy tale details a masochistic relationship between a college student and a businessman, whose desires for extreme intimacy pen from secrets in his past. All reports are that the source material is abysmal, which will very likely translate into a pretty terrible film, but this will attract a huge audience. Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy) and starring Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson.

What We Did On Our Holiday – Doug and Abi are taking their three children on a trip to Scotland for a big family gathering. They are in the midst of a difficult divorce, and have asked the kids to keep it a secret from their extended family. But as the inevitable feuds kick in, a completely unexpected turn of events involving the children causes further tensions to rise to the surface. And with the repercussions that ensue – hilarious and emotional in equal measure – the family are forced to put aside their differences and work together or else risk losing what they hold most dear. This has a top cast – Pike, Tennant and Connelly – and looks to be quite charming and pleasant. Probably a wait-for-DVD option, though.

Weekly Recommendation: A big, big week. Something for everyone. Fifty Shades of Grey will overwhelm everything else in BO takings, but it is Selma (and I suspect Citizen Four) that you MUST SEE. It will also be interesting to see how The Interview goes, given that half the country has probably already watched it by now. If you haven’t, it’s a good time.

Feb 082015
 

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Adapted from the autobiography by Jane Wilde Hawking, ‘Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Steven’, The Theory of Everything deals with Jane’s relationship with her ex-husband, world-renowned astrophysicist Steven Hawking, his diagnosis of motor neuron disease and how, through her decades of support while raising their family, Steven would go on to write ‘A Brief History of Time’.

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Jan 312015
 

Through the first month of 2015 I watched a total of 23 films. I have been making more of an effort to watch TV in 2015, and I will be including everything I watch there in these round-ups.

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In January we were also were given a PS4, which means that on some evenings film and TV won’t matter. Nothing else will matter. We are going to have to be disciplined with how we spend our time this year, but what a cool new toy.

All categories below (after the jump) are ranked in order of preference: Continue reading »