Jun 302016
 

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In cinemas this week: The BFG, Central Intelligence, Ice Age: Collision Course, Belle and Sebastian: The Adventure Continues and The Wait. 

The BFG – Ten-year-old Sophie is in for the adventure of a lifetime when she meets the Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance). Naturally scared at first, the young girl soon realises that the 24-foot behemoth is actually quite gentle and charming. As their friendship grows, Sophie’s presence attracts the unwanted attention of Bloodbottler, Fleshlumpeater and other giants. After traveling to London, Sophie and the BFG must convince Queen Victoria to help them get rid of all the bad giants once and for all. A personal childhood favourite, and despite the mixed reviews I am intrigued to see how Steven Spielberg can make this work for the screen.

Central Intelligence – Bullied as a teen for being overweight, Bob Stone (Dwayne Johnson) shows up to his high school reunion looking fit and muscular. While there, he finds Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart), a fast-talking accountant who misses his glory days as a popular athlete. Stone is now a lethal CIA agent who needs Calvin’s number skills to help him save the compromised U.S. spy satellite system. Together, the former classmates encounter shootouts, espionage and double-crosses while trying to prevent worldwide chaos. One to catch on VOD later in the year, because it looks quite funny. Johnson and Hart will, no doubt, make a great comic duo.

Ice Age: Collision Course – Scrat’s epic pursuit of the elusive acorn catapults him into the universe where he accidentally sets off a series of cosmic events that transform and threaten the Ice Age World. To save themselves, Sid, Manny, Diego, and the rest of the herd must leave their home and embark on a quest full of comedy and adventure, travelling to exotic new lands and encountering a host of colourful new characters. Another one? It must be the school holidays.

Belle and Sebastian: The Adventure Continues – The young boy and his big shaggy dog from 2014’s Belle & Sebastian are back in a new tale of adventure! Set at the close of the Second World War, Sebastian (Félix Bossuet) is now ten years old and ready for an action-packed search in the Alps for his friend Angelina (Margaux Chatelier) who has gone missing after a plane crash. The first film was lovely. And this will at least have some beautiful scenery. 

The Wait – A young woman (Lou de Laâge) waits for the arrival of her boyfriend (Giovanni Anzaldo) in Sicily, but the man’s grieving mother (Juliette Binoche) does not tell her that he is dead. Fans of Melanie Laurent’s incredible Breathe will recognise Lou de Laâge here, working alongside the legendary Juliette Binoche. Yep.

Weekly Recommendation: The BFG, but we’re not at all sure what to expect. The Wait is screening regularly at Opera Quays this week if you missed it at the French Film Festival earlier in the year.

Jun 232016
 

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In cinemas this week: Independence Day: Resurgence, Everybody Wants Some and Mustang

Independence Day: Resurgence – Using recovered extraterrestrial technology, the nations of Earth collaborate on an immense defense program to protect the planet. When the aliens attack with unprecedented force, only the ingenuity of a few brave men and women can save the world. Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman are back in Roland Emmerich’s anticipated sequel to his groundbreaking 1996 disaster hit.

Everybody Wants Some – In 1980 Texas, a college freshman (Blake Jenner) meets his new baseball teammates (including Will Brittain, Ryan Guzman), an unruly group of disco-dancing, skirt-chasing partyers. The latest from Richard Linklater has had its fans (and vocal dissenters), and sounds like a spiritual-sequel to his 1993 film, Dazed and Confused, provoking nostalgia for the free-wheeling of youth.

Mustang – Early summer in a village in Northern Turkey. Five free-spirited teenaged sisters splash about on the beach with their male classmates. Though their games are merely innocent fun, a neighbour passes by and reports what she considers to be illicit behaviour to the girls’ family. The family overreacts, removing all “instruments of corruption,” like cell phones and computers, and essentially imprisoning the girls, subjecting them to endless lessons in housework in preparation for them to become brides. As the eldest sisters are married off, the younger ones bond together to avoid the same fate. The fierce love between them empowers them to rebel and chase a future where they can determine their own lives in Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s debut, a powerful portrait of female empowerment. Truly wonderful – one of the finest films of the year so far. Further thoughts at the link.

Weekly Recommendation – There’s something for everyone here, but the one we urge you not to miss is Mustang. We’ll be catching Linklater’s latest, and seeing some big-screen mass-destruction this weekend.

Jun 082016
 

FINDING DORY

In cinemas June 9 – A Perfect Day, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, The Conjuring 2

In cinemas June 16 – Finding Dory, Warcraft: The Beginning, Me Before You, Miles Ahead, Downriver and Mr Right

A Perfect Day – The subject of this anti-war comedy/thriller – the bureaucracy-plagued international aid program in the Balkans during the Bosnian War – was compelling on its own. Assigned the task of removing a body from a well before it contaminates the village supply, a misfit troupe of aid workers attempt to procure some rope. When all sorts of obstacles impede that mission the series of misadventures are equally hilarious and nail-bitingly suspenseful. The performances (headlined by a superb Benicio Del Toro, and also including Tim Robbins and Olga Kurylenko), and the unusual soundtrack, are also terrific.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows – The turtles face a new challenge when Shredder escapes from custody and joins forces with Baxter Stockman, a mad scientist who plans to use a serum to take over the world. Along for the ride are Bebop and Rocksteady, two dimwitted henchmen who provide plenty of muscle. Luckily, the turtles have their own allies in April O’Neil, Vernon Fenwick and Casey Jones, a hockey-masked vigilante. As the pizza-loving heroes prepare for battle, the notorious Krang also emerges to pose an even greater threat. Ummm. What is this about? They keep making these movies, and it just seems like no one cares about the Turtles anymore.

The Conjuring 2 – In 1977, paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) come out of a self-imposed sabbatical to travel to Enfield, a borough in north London. There, they meet Peggy Hodgson, an overwhelmed single mother of four who tells the couple that something evil is in her home. Ed and Lorraine believe her story when the youngest daughter starts to show signs of demonic possession. As the Warrens try to help the besieged girl, they become the next target of the malicious spirits. This sequel to the massive horror hit, by way of the Annabelle spin-off, has some big shoes to fill. The Conjuring was a genuinely terrifying film, distinctly elevated by excellent direction from James Wan, who returns to helm here.

Finding Dory reunites the friendly-but-forgetful blue tang fish with her loved ones, and everyone learns a few things about the true meaning of family along the way. The all-new big-screen adventure takes moviegoers back to the extraordinary underwater world from the original film. While the idea of spending a whole film with Dory isn’t particularly appealing, it is Pixar – and directed by Andrew Stanton (Wall E) – so it is automatically essential viewing.

Warcraft: The Beginning – Looking to escape from his dying world, the orc shaman Gul’dan utilises dark magic to open a portal to the human realm of Azeroth. Supported by the fierce fighter Blackhand, Gul’dan organises the orc clans into a conquering army called the Horde. Uniting to protect Azeroth from these hulking invaders are King Llane, the mighty warrior Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) and the powerful wizard Medivh. As the two races collide, leaders from each side start to question if war is the only answer. Early reactions suggest that Duncan Jones (Moon and Source Code) has made a major flop here, and this looks suited to fans of the game only. 

Me Before You – Adapted from the bestselling novel by Jo Jo Moyes, Me Before You tells the story of the unexpected relationship that blossoms between a contented small town Englishwoman and the wealthy, paralyzed Londoner who hires her as his caretaker. Has alluring stars, Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin, and fans of the weepy rom-drama will surely get their fix.

Miles Ahead is not just about the music. It’s about what we all face at one time or another in our lives; questions about who we really are, what we have to say and how will we say it. How will we ultimately be defined and who gets to say so? This Miles Davis biopic is both directed by and stars Don Cheadle, and reviewers have admired the unconventional approach to a fleeting period of the Jazz legend’s life and career.

Downriver – After serving time in prison for a crime he supposedly committed as a young child, James (Reef Ireland) returns to his hometown and the community he devastated years ago to put the pieces of his past together. Don’t know much about this, other than some quiet discussion following its premiere at the Melbourne International Film Festival last year. Limited run I expect.

Mr Right – A woman (Anna Kendrick) comes to a crossroad when she finds out that her new beau (Sam Rockwell) is a professional assassin who kills the people who hire him instead of the intended targets. While this has its charms, and takes some baffling chances as a genre mash-up, both of the likeable leads deserve more than what this thin premise offers.

Weekly Recommendations – A Perfect Day has been a long time coming (on and off the release schedule), but certainly our favourite new film. The Conjuring 2, Finding Dory and Miles Ahead would account for the rest of our cinema visits in the next fortnight, if we weren’t attending the Sydney Film Festival.

Jun 022016
 

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In cinemas this week: Money Monster, Now You See Me 2, The Measure of a Man and Queen of the Desert.

Money Monster – Lee Gates (George Clooney) is a Wall Street guru who picks hot stocks as host of the television show “Money Monster.” Suddenly, during a live broadcast, disgruntled investor Kyle Budwell (Jack O’ Connell) storms onto the set and takes Gates hostage. He tells Lee that he lost everything on one of his tips. As Gates tries to plead with Kyle, he’s also using an earpiece to communicate with his longtime producer in the control room. Together, they must figure out a way to defuse the situation and disarm the angry young man. We are intrigued by what Jodie Foster brings to the director’s chair, and this timely study of sociopolitical anger should make for a great thriller. But, no one is talking about this much at all. 

Now You See Me 2 – Set three years after the first film’s events, The Four Horsemen return for a second mind-bending adventure. One year after outwitting the FBI and winning the public’s adulation with Robin Hood-style magic spectacles, the illusionists resurface for a comeback performance in hopes of exposing the unethical practices of a tech magnate. The man behind their vanishing act is none other than Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), a tech prodigy who threatens the Horsemen into pulling off their most impossible heist yet. Their only hope is to perform one last unprecedented stunt to reveal the mastermind behind it all. Like its charismatic illusionists, this film presents itself as one big illusion; and embraces showmanship over logic. It is a film that flings every trick at its audience, and while it is never boring, it ultimately has too many tricks and not enough sleeves.

The Measure of a Man – Vincent Lindon gives a Cannes Best Actor winning performance as unemployed everyman Thierry, who must submit to a series of quietly humiliating ordeals in his search for work. Futile retraining courses that lead to dead ends, interviews via Skype, an interview-coaching workshop critique of his self-presentation by fellow jobseekers all are mechanisms that seek to break him down and strip him of identity and self-respect in the name of reengineering of a workforce fit for a neoliberal technocratic system. Stéphane Brizé film dispassionately monitors the progress of its stoic protagonist until at last he lands a job on the front line in the surveillance and control of his fellow man and finally faces one too many moral dilemmas. A powerful and deeply troubling vision of the realities of our new economic order.

Queen of the Desert – A true story of the life of British explorer and adventurer, Gertrude Bell (Nicole Kidman), this film chronicles her journeys of love and loss in the Middle East during the early 20th century. Though directed by Werner Herzog and co-starring James Franco and Robert Pattinson and is a giant turd of a movie.

Weekly Recommendation: Not a great week. If you haven’t caught Hunt for the Wilderpeople, get onto that. From this bunch Money Monster and The Measure of a Man should prove to be the most satisfying.

May 262016
 

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In cinemas this week: The Nice Guys, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Alice Through the Looking Glass.

The Nice Guys – Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is a down-on-his-luck private eye in 1977 Los Angeles. Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is a hired enforcer who hurts people for a living. Fate turns them into unlikely partners after a young woman named Amelia (Margaret Qualley) mysteriously disappears. Healy and March soon learn the hard way that other dangerous people are also looking for Amelia. Their investigation leads to some dark places as anyone else who gets involved in the case seems to wind up dead. Shane Black doesn’t quite recapture the form of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but Gosling and Crowe make a great hapless PI team, and it is consistently funny throughout, even if it doesn’t dig too deeply into the seedy ’70s California underworld. Further thoughts at the link.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople – Raised on hip-hop and foster care, defiant city kid Ricky gets a fresh start in the New Zealand countryside. He quickly finds himself at home with his new foster family: the loving Aunt Bella, the cantankerous Uncle Hec, and dog Tupac. When a tragedy strikes that threatens to ship Ricky to another home, both he and Hec go on the run in the bush. As a national manhunt ensues, the newly branded outlaws must face their options: go out in a blaze of glory or overcome their differences and survive as a family. Equal parts road comedy and rousing adventure story, director Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows) masterfully weaves lively humour with emotionally honest performances by Sam Neill and Julian Dennison. Can’t wait to see this one. Taika Waititi’s films are always a treat, and Julian Dennison is a brilliant young actor.

Alice Through the Looking Glass – After slipping through a mirror, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) finds herself back in Underland with the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), the Cheshire Cat, the White Rabbit, Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Her friends tell her that the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is depressed over the death of his family. Hoping to save his loved ones, Alice steals the Chronosphere from Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) to travel into the past. While there, she encounters the younger Hatter and the evil Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter). An improvement on Burton’s dire effort, but a few of the performances and some inventive sets/effects aside, its pretty lackluster stuff. Sam’s review at the link.

Weekly Recommendation: The Nice Guys is worth a look for sure, but we expect our highlight to be Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
May 182016
 

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In cinemas this week – X-Men: Apocalypse, The Meddler, Criminal, Highly Strung and Keanu. 

X-Men: Apocalypse – Worshiped as a god since the dawn of civilization, the immortal Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) becomes the first and most powerful mutant. Awakening after thousands of years, he recruits the disheartened Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and other mutants to create a new world order. As the fate of the Earth hangs in the balance, Professor X (James McAvoy) and Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) lead a team of young X-Men to stop their seemingly invincible nemesis from destroying mankind. After the immediately forgettable last entry in the X-Men universe, we’re not going to rush out for this one. 

The Meddler – After the death of her husband, a woman (Susan Sarandon) moves from New Jersey to Los Angeles to be closer to her daughter (Rose Byrne). This is the latest film from Lorene Scafaria (writer/director of the very sweet Seeking a Friend For the End of the World), but we were already sold on that powerful lady duo.

Criminal – CIA agent Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) dies while traveling to a secret location to meet a hacker who can launch missiles at will. Desperate to find his whereabouts, officials turn to an experimental neurosurgeon who can transfer memories from one brain to another. The guinea pig for the procedure is Jerico Stewart (Kevin Costner), a violent and dangerous death-row inmate. Now gifted with Pope’s skills and knowledge, Stewart must race against time to stop a sinister international conspiracy. Ryan Reynolds is in EVERYTHING, but this also feels like ‘this month’s CIA thriller’.

Keanu – Recently dumped by his girlfriend, slacker Rell (Jordan Peele) finds some happiness when a cute kitten winds up on his doorstep. After a heartless thief steals the cat, Rell recruits his cousin Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) to help him retrieve it. They soon learn that a thug named Cheddar (Method Man) has the animal, and he’ll only give it back if the two men agree to work for him. Armed with guns and a gangster attitude, it doesn’t take long for the hapless duo to land in big trouble. Having never seen an episode of Key and Peele there isn’t much appeal in this. 

Highly Strung – Director Scott Hicks (Shine and Glass: A Portrait of Philip in 12 Parts) continues his exploration of music-themed films with Highly Strung, a journey into a rarefied world of elusive tones evoked by horsehair on catgut; of investors tempted to spend millions on unique instruments; and a quartet of virtuosi caught up in a duel of tension and harmony.

Weekly Recommendation: If you haven’t yet caught Green Room it is a terrifyingly intense thriller, and in our opinion the best film in cinemas right now, but we’re attracted to the light-weight charm promised by The Meddler this week in the wake of the hotly anticipated The Nice Guys and Hunt for the Wilderpeople later in the month.

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 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.