Apr 212016
 

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In cinemas this week: Eddie the Eagle, Midnight Special and Marguerite.

Eddie the Eagle – Cut from the Olympic ski team, British athlete Michael “Eddie” Edwards (Taron Edgerton) travels to Germany to test his skills at ski jumping. Fate leads him to Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), a former ski jumper who now works as a snowplow driver. Impressed by Edwards’ spirit and determination, Peary agrees to train the young underdog. Despite an entire nation counting him out, Eddie’s never-say-die attitude takes him all the way to a historic and improbable showing at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta. This has an uncanny resemblance to Cool Runnings – but it does look like a sweet, inspiring story and Dexter Fletcher’s last film Sunshine on Leith was underappreciated.

Midnight Special – The government and a group of religious extremists pursue a man (Michael Shannon) and his son (Jaeden Lieberher), a young boy who possesses special powers. The latest film from one of America’s finest young filmmakers, Jeff Nichols (Mud, Take Shelter), looks to have been inspired by the best – Steven Spielberg – while continuing his humanistic eye for lower-middle class American stories and exploring the bonds between parents and their children. Can’t wait for this one.

Marguerite – In 1921 France, a wealthy woman (Catherine Frot) follows her passion to sing in front of audiences, but no one tells her how bad she is. Loosely inspired by the life of Florence Foster Jenkins…hang on, isn’t there a film starring Meryl Streep about this exact person coming out in a few weeks?

Weekly Recommendation – You may have to travel some distance to see Midnight Special – it is screening at Palace Norton Street, Dendy Newtown and Dendy Opera Quays, at least, in Sydney – but we’re confident it will be worth it. 

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:

Continue reading »

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.  

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. 

Apr 022016
 

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I had a much quieter month of viewing in March – 20 films, and 20 episodes of television. Thankfully most of what I watched was pretty decent, which was a nice change from February’s film mediocrity. I also passed my reviewing goal in March. One per week.

I finished several substantial novels, including ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ and ‘The Goldfinch’, the latter which has been sitting unfinished on my shelf for a long time. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. One of the most extraordinary novels I have ever read. I have also, rather foolishly, embarked on a quest to read all 62 of the classic Goosebumps books (in order). I have missed a few so far, but I read 22 of them in March. At the conclusion, if I make it, I will be writing about my experiences.

I also got addicted to the ‘Uncharted’ series on PS4. I am deep into ‘Uncharted 2’, which is living up to the widespread ‘Greatest Game Ever’ acclaim. I look forward to continuing the series in April. While I did cull back TV, I did regretfully miss a few theatrical releases I was keen to see: 10 Cloverfield Lane, Eye in the Sky and Kung-Fu Panda 3. I hope I will be able to still catch them in the coming weeks.

My thoughts on all of my fresh film viewing in March after the jump: Continue reading »

Mar 312016
 

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This week, off the back of a blockbuster week including Batman v. Superman and My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, we have a quiet selection of releases – Sherpa and Labyrinth of Lies.

Sherpa – A brawl on Everest? Director Jennifer Peedom set out to uncover tension in the 2014 Everest climbing season from the Sherpas’ point of view and instead captured a tragedy when an avalanche struck, killing 16 Sherpas. Sherpa tells the story of how the Sherpas united after the tragedy in the face of fierce opposition, to reclaim the mountain they call Chomolungma. This is an admirably balanced film that offers a provocative document of a high-altitude worker’s rights movement which eventually led to a drastic reappraisal of the role of the Sherpas, and how, through grief and unity, this spiritual people managed to reclaim professional respect. It is breathtaking, and you can find further thoughts at the link.

Labyrinth of Lies – Upon learning that many former Nazis returned to their pre-war lives with no penalty, an ambitious German prosecutor (Alexander Fehling) vows to bring them to justice.

Weekly Recommendation – While Labyrinth sounds fascinating Sherpa is the one you want to make the time to see in the cinema. We still haven’t caught up with the well-reviewed Kung-Fu Panda 3, so apart from that it will likely be a quiet weekend at the cinema. 

Mar 252016
 

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In 2013 a brawl between Sherpas and client climbers at the 21,000ft base camp of Mount Everest made news headlines. The Sherpas, an ethnic group of people living in the Himalayas, have been popularised as calm, cooperative and optimistic people who were always willing to assist foreign climbers achieve their dreams of reaching the Everest summit. But, something had made the Sherpa’s express an unusual emotion – anger. A serious verbal insult, in addition to the clearer realisation that their irreplaceable services were being exploited as the industry continues to boom, and the fact that their assignment of the highest proportion of risk was not being compensated. Add in their dismay at the escalating desecration of Everest’s sacred and natural wonders as a result of heavy expedition traffic, and this was enough to send a few over the edge when disrespected and provoked. Continue reading »

Mar 242016
 

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In cinemas this week: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, Kung-Fu Panda 3, Eye in the Sky and A Bigger Splash.

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of JusticeIt’s been nearly two years since Superman’s (Henry Cavill) colossal battle with Zod devastated the city of Metropolis. The loss of life and collateral damage left many feeling angry and helpless, including crime-fighting billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). Convinced that Superman is now a threat to humanity, Batman embarks on a personal vendetta to end his reign on Earth, while the conniving Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) launches his own crusade against the Man of Steel. Rampant catastrophe. Fans of the inspiration comics will get their fill. Everyone else will be pummelled into a stupor and left shaking their heads as to what is going on.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 – Parenting and marriage is becoming tougher and tougher for Toula (Nia Vardalos) and her husband Ian. Not only has their relationship lost some of its spark, but they’re also dealing with a rebellious teenage daughter who clashes with Greek traditions. On top of that, Toula must contend with aging parents and the endless needs of cousins and friends. When a shocking family secret comes to light, the entire Portokalos clan makes plans to come together for an even bigger wedding than before. The first film was a mega hit. I didn’t get the appeal, and will be skipping this almost-certain inferior sequel. 

Kung-Fu Panda 3 – Living large and loving life, Po (Jack Black) realizes that he has a lot to learn if he’s going to fulfill the next challenge from his beloved instructor (Dustin Hoffman). After reuniting with his long-lost father (Bryan Cranston), Po must transition from student to teacher and train a group of fun-loving, clumsy pandas to become martial-arts fighters. Together, the kung-fu brethren unite to take on the evil Kai (J.K. Simmons), a supernatural warrior who becomes stronger with each battle. I seem to have rare appreciation of KFP2, but this has been a decent franchise to date. I’m intrigued to see where they take the story next.

Eye in the Sky – Complications arise when a lieutenant general (Alan Rickman) and a colonel (Helen Mirren) order a drone missile strike to take out a group of terrorists in Nairobi, Kenya. Aaron Paul and Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips) co-star and reviews have been very positive. Not all that interested initially, but one to catch up with on home release.

A Bigger Splash – The off-the-grid vacation of a famous rock star, Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton), and her filmmaker boyfriend, Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts), is disrupted by the unexpected visit of Marianne’s old friend and music producer Harry Hawkes (Ralph Fiennes) and his salacious young daughter, Penelope (Dakota Johnson). Had a lot of promise, but didn’t live up to it despite an electrifying high-energy performance from Fiennes. Full thoughts at the link.

Weekly Recommendation – The two I have seen (Batman v. Superman and A Bigger Splash) I don’t care for. It is the Easter long weekend, people will see what they damn well please.