May 262016
 

Wilder_People_-_web2_01

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.
Mar 242016
 

Kung-Fu-Panda-3

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.

Mar 102016
 

NEP8UCYAt6PvTU_1_a

In cinemas this week – 10 Cloverfield Lane, Victoria, Spear and Grimsby. 

10 Cloverfield Lane – A woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) discovers the horrifying truth about the outside world while living in an underground shelter with two men (John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr.). Have no expectations at all here, but if there is a film that warrants a sequel – or a film set in the same universe – it is Cloverfield. Great cast & trailer.

Victoria – Four local Berliners recruit a thrill-seeking Spanish woman (Laia Costa) to be their getaway driver for a bank robbery. This amazing film is comprised of a single take. No tricks. No effects. It premiered at last year’s Sydney Film Festival, and I [Andy] have seen few films since then that have affected me as much. Further thoughts at the link.

SpearA contemporary Aboriginal story, told through movement and dance, of a young man Djali as he journeys through his community to understand what it means to be a man with ancient traditions in a modern world. Spanning from the outback of Australia to the gritty city streets of Sydney, Spear is a poignant reflection of the continuing cultural connection of Indigenous people. It is an intimate journey with Stephen Page, one of Australia’s most celebrated artists, as he brings this modern day mythological story to the screen.

Grimsby – Dimwitted Nobby (Sacha Baron Cohen) lives in an English fishing town with his loving girlfriend (Rebel Wilson) and nine children. For the last 28 years, he’s been searching for his long-lost brother Sebastian (Mark Strong). When the two finally reunite, Nobby finds out that his sibling is a top MI6 agent who’s just uncovered a sinister plot. Wrongfully accused and on the run, Sebastian now realizes that he needs Nobby’s help to save the world and prove his innocence. I haven’t enjoyed any of Sacha Baron Cohen’s creations since Borat, so I will be giving it a miss.

Weekly Recommendation – Can’t recommend seeing Victoria in cinemas enough. Essential viewing, but the release is limited – Nova in Melbourne and Golden Age in Sydney. Well worth making the effort. Cloverfield was great, and the teaser trailer for the loosely-linked Lane doesn’t reveal anything. Count us in. And speaking of trailers, Spear also looks amazing. Let’s hope Australian audiences give this local film some support.

Feb 032016
 

steve-jobs-trailer

In cinemas this week: Steve Jobs, Anomalisa and The Choice.

Steve Jobs – With public anticipation running high, Apple Inc. co-founders Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) and Steve “Woz” Wozniak get ready to unveil the first Macintosh in 1984. Jobs must also deal with personal issues related to ex-girlfriend Chrisann Brennan and their young daughter Lisa. Eventually fired, Jobs launches NeXT Inc. and prepares to release a new computer model in 1988. Ten years later, Jobs is back at Apple Inc. and about to revolutionize the industry once again with the iMac. Danny Boyle, Aaron Sorkin and Michael Fassbender make an ace team in this fascinating behind-the-curtain biopic into the human machine of Steve Jobs. Full thoughts at the link. 

Anomalisa – An inspirational speaker (David Thewlis) becomes reinvigorated after meeting a lively woman (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who shakes up his mundane existence. The animation style is very interesting, the voice-cast incredibly good, and Charlie Kaufman’s (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) address of depression and alienation is uncomfortably direct. But is feels like Kaufman is retreading ideas (mid-life identity crises, human connection through otherworldly forces) albeit with an astonishing new presentation and baffling surreal flourishes. Still not sure what to make of this one, but I appreciate it more than enjoyed it.

The Choice – Travis Shaw (Benjamin Walker) is a ladies’ man who thinks a serious relationship would cramp his easygoing lifestyle. Gabby Holland (Teresa Palmer) is a feisty medical student who’s preparing to settle down with her long-term boyfriend. Fate brings the two together as Gabby moves next door to Travis, sparking an irresistible attraction that upends both of their lives. As their bond grows, the unlikely couple must decide how far they’re willing to go to keep the hope of love alive. The latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation – so you know what you’re in for. 

Weekly Recommendation – Steve Jobs, for sure. Don’t take the failed US box office and lukewarm reviews to heart, this is an excellent film.

Dec 022015
 

file_611771_The-Night-Before-Piano-Seth-Rogen-640x320

In cinemas this week: In the Heart of the Sea, The Night Before, The End of the Tour, Phoenix and Truth.

In the Heart of the Sea – In the winter of 1820, the New England whaling ship Essex was assaulted by something no one could believe: a whale of mammoth size and will, and an almost human sense of vengeance. The real-life maritime disaster would inspire Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. But that told only half the story. This film reveals the encounter’s harrowing aftermath, as the ship’s surviving crew is pushed to their limits and forced to do the unthinkable to stay alive. Braving storms, starvation, panic and despair, the men will call into question their deepest beliefs, from the value of their lives to the morality of their trade, as their captain searches for direction on the open sea and his first mate still seeks to bring the great whale down. Full review to come – but rather a disappointment, despite some remarkable technical achievements.

The Night Before – For the last 10 years, lifelong buddies Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) have gathered on Christmas Eve to celebrate the holidays with a bang. As Isaac prepares to become a first-time father, the friends realize that their annual tradition is coming to a sad end. To make it as memorable as possible, they plan a night of debauchery and hilarity by searching for the Nutcracka Ball, the Holy Grail of Christmas parties in New York. The latest film from director Jonathan Levine, who worked with Rogen and Gordon-Levitt to great success in 50/50, is an irresistible blast of infectious Christmas spirit and hilariously irresponsible behaviour. A new holiday classic. 

The End of the Tour – The story of the five-day interview between Rolling Stone reporter (and novelist) David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) and acclaimed novelist David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel), which took place right after the 1996 publication of Wallace’s groundbreaking epic novel, Infinite Jest. As the days go on, a tenuous yet intense relationship seems to develop between journalist and subject. The two men bob and weave around each other, sharing laughs and also possibly revealing hidden frailties – but it’s never clear how truthful they are being with each other. Ironically, the interview was never published, and five days of audio tapes were packed away in Lipsky’s closet. The two men did not meet again. A masterpiece – full thoughts at the link.

Phoenix – A spellbinding mystery of identity, illusion, and deception unfolds against the turmoil of post-World War II Germany in the stunning new film from acclaimed director Christian Petzold. Nelly (Nina Hoss), a German-Jewish nightclub singer, has survived a concentration camp, but with her face disfigured by a bullet wound. After undergoing reconstructive surgery, Nelly emerges with a new face, one similar but different enough that her former husband, Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld), doesn’t recognize her. Rather than reveal herself, Nelly walks into a dangerous game of duplicity and disguise as she tries to figure out if the man she loves may have been the one who betrayed her to the Nazis. Thought from SFF at the link.

Truth – The film chronicles the story Mapes (Cate Blanchett) and Rather (Robert Redford) uncovered that a sitting US president may have been AWOL from the United States National Guard for over a year during the Vietnam War. When the story blew up in their face, the ensuing scandal ruined Dan Rather’s career, nearly changed a US Presidential election, and almost took down all of CBS News in the process. Based on the book “”Truth and Duty” by Mary Mapes. Fascinating story that feels worthy of cinematic adaptation. Been hearing great things about Blanchett’s performance, but with such a stacked week might wait for DVD with this one.

Weekly Recommendation: We’re only a couple of weeks out from The Force Awakens and all of these films are soon going to disappear from the multiplexes. But it is a cracker of a week. Melbournites don’t miss The End of the Tour, one of the year’s very best films. It is screening exclusive to Nova. Whether you are after challenging, thought-provoking cinema (Phoenix), epic escapism (In the Heart of the Sea), or a chaotic buddy comedy bursting with Christmas spirit (The Night Before) there is something for you this week. 

Oct 142015
 

crimson-peak-mia-wasikowska-tom-hiddleston

In cinemas this week: Crimson Peak, The Walk, Legend and Unindian. 

Crimson Peak – When her heart is stolen by a seductive stranger, a young woman is swept away to a house atop a mountain of blood-red clay: a place filled with secrets that will haunt her forever. Between desire and darkness, between mystery and madness, lies the truth behind Crimson Peak. From the imagination of director Guillermo del Toro (Cronos, Pan’s Labyrinth) comes a supernatural mystery starring Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska and Charlie Hunnam. This looks spectacular; hopefully a return to the Gothic masterpieces aforementioned that launched and established Del Toror’s career. Looks like a blend of Nosferatu, Suspiria and a bunch of other creepy, wicked things.

The WalkThe true story of a young dreamer, Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and a band of unlikely recruits who together achieve the impossible: an illegal wire walk in the immense void between the World Trade Center towers. With little more than nerve and blind ambition, Petit and his ragtag crew overcome daunting physical obstacles, betrayals, countless close calls and overwhelming odds to beat the system and execute their mad plan. Veteran director Robert Zemeckis tackles the incredible story documented in the unforgettable Man on Wire, and I believe makes the most of the 3D technology at his disposal. If pushed, I would see it, but I don’t think I can stand Levitt’s ‘exaggerated’ accent.

Legend – From Academy Award-winner Brian Helgeland comes the true story of the rise and fall of London’s most notorious gangsters, Reggie and Ron Kray, both portrayed by Tom Hardy in an incredible performance. Legend is a classic crime thriller taking us into the secret history of the 1960s and the extraordinary events that secured the infamy of the Kray TwinsDouble the Hardy will be fun, but I’m not sure I need another gangster biopic right now.

Weekly Recommendation – It is a star-studded week, but we’re most excited for Crimson Peak.

Sep 092015
 

people-places-things

In cinemas this week: The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, Life, People, Places, Things, Pixels, Tangerine and The Duke of Burgundy

The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials In this next chapter of the epic “Maze Runner” saga, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his fellow Gladers face their greatest challenge yet: searching for clues about the mysterious and powerful organization known as WCKD. Their journey takes them to the Scorch, a desolate landscape filled with unimaginable obstacles. Teaming up with resistance fighters, the Gladers take on WCKD’s vastly superior forces and uncover its shocking plans for them all.

Life – A Life Magazine photographer receives the assignment to photograph rising Hollywood star James Dean. Stars Dane Dehaan and Robert Pattonson and it is excellent. My thoughts at the link.

People, Places, Things – Will Henry is a graphic novelist and a professor in NYC. At his adorable twin girls’ fifth birthday party, Will’s life is turned upside down when he walks in on the mother of his children, and longtime girlfriend, Charlie, with their friend Gary. One year later, Will is still alone and trying to put his life back together. He finds unexpected challenges when his talented student Kat tries to set Will up with her accomplished mother Diane. In this thoughtful comedy, Will is forced to navigate the unknown landscape of single fatherhood and dating in New York City, while remaining an inspiration for his students and coming to terms with himself both as a father as an artist.

Pixels – As kids in the 1980s, Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler), Will Cooper (Kevin James), Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad), and Eddie “The Fire Blaster” Plant (Peter Dinklage) saved the world thousands of times – at 25 cents a game in the video arcades. Now, they’re going to have to do it for real. In Pixels, when intergalactic aliens discover video feeds of classic arcade games and misinterpret them as a declaration of war, they attack the Earth, using the video games as the models for their assaults — and now-U.S. President Cooper must call on his old-school arcade friends to save the world from being destroyed by PAC-MAN, Donkey Kong, Galaga, Centipede, and Space Invaders. Joining them is Lt. Col. Violet Van Patten (Michelle Monaghan), a specialist supplying the arcaders with unique weapons to fight the aliens.

Tangerine – A working girl tears through Tinseltown on Christmas Eve searching for the pimp who broke her heart. This is the infamous iPhone film, which screened as part of the competition for the Sydney Film Festival prize. Further thoughts at the link.

The Duke of Burgundy – Day after day, Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and Evelyn (Chiara D’Anna) act out a simple yet provocative ritual that ends with Evelyn’s punishment and pleasure. As Cynthia yearns for a more conventional relationship, Evelyn’s obsession with erotica quickly becomes an addiction that may push the relationship to a breaking point. One of the weirdest films I saw at TIFF14. I still think about it often.

Weekly Recommendation: Having seen three of these films I can heartily recommend Life and, if you are in Melbourne (a Nova exclusive), The Duke of Burgundy. I did not like Tangerine as much as the crowd, but if you are interested in an innovative filmmaking venture that shatters convention you may find it a hoot. Having enjoyed The Maze Runner I will eventually see The Scorch Trials on DVD. Similarly People Places Things, which looks rather sweet.

Aug 122015
 

Girlhood film - 2015

In cinemas this week: The Man From U.N.C.L.E, Girlhood, Iris, 5 Flights Up and Survivor.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E – Henry Cavill stars as Napoleon Solo opposite Armie Hammer as Illya Kuryakin in director Guy Ritchie’s “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” a fresh take on the hugely popular 1960s television series. Set against the backdrop of the early 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, it centers on CIA agent Solo and KGB agent Kuryakin. Forced to put aside longstanding hostilities, the two team up on a joint mission to stop a mysterious international criminal organization, which is working to proliferate nuclear weapons. Alicia Vikander and Elizabeth Debicki co-star. I still embrace Guy Ritchie’s (overused)style, and with a fun cast added to the mix this looks like it has plenty of opportunities to please.

Girlhood – Fed up with her abusive family situation, lack of school prospects and the “boys’ law” in the neighborhood, Marieme starts a new life after meeting a group of three free-spirited girls. She changes her name, her style, drops out of school and starts stealing to be accepted into the gang. When her home situation becomes unbearable, Marieme seeks solace in an older man who promises her money and protection. Realizing this sort of lifestyle will never result in the freedom and independence she truly desires, she finally decides to take matters into her own hands. Girlhood is wonderful. One of the very best films I saw in Toronto last year. It has been a longtime coming, but Celine Sciamma’s (Tomboy) third feature explodes with style while being incredibly observant and intimate. 

Iris pairs legendary 87-year-old documentarian Albert Maysles with Iris Apfel, the quick-witted, flamboyantly dressed 93-year-old style maven who has had an outsized presence on the New York fashion scene for decades. More than a fashion film, the documentary is a story about creativity and how, even in Iris’ dotage, a soaring free spirit continues to inspire. Iris portrays a singular woman whose enthusiasm for fashion, art and people are life’s sustenance and reminds us that dressing, and indeed life, is nothing but an experiment. Despite the abundance of glamour in her current life, she continues to embrace the values and work ethic established during a middle-class Queens upbringing during the Great Depression. I feel lucky to be working. If you’re lucky enough to do something you love, everything else follows. Reviews have been strong, and there was a lot of talk at the Sydney Film Festival about this fascinating lady.

5 Flights Up – Forty years ago, artist Alex Carver (Morgan Freeman) bought a run-down apartment in a sketchy part of Brooklyn with his wife, schoolteacher Ruth (Diane Keaton). Today, their neighborhood is now very hip and their apartment worth a small fortune. The now- retired Ruth and Alex haven’t changed – they are still as much in love as ever. But they have let Ruth’s niece Lily (Cynthia Nixon), a real estate agent, list their property to see what the market might bear. On the eve of their open house, the Brooklyn Bridge is rumored to be under a terrorist attack, sending the media into a frenzy and people’s attitudes about living in New York. Closer to home, Dorothy, the Carver’s beloved dog, is suddenly having trouble walking. While Dorothy is having expensive treatment at the vet, Ruth convinces Alex to go apartment hunting in Manhattan, where they miraculously come across an ideal place they might actually be able to afford. As the world around them seems to mirror their own chaos and confusion, Ruth and Alex realize the same bond of love that has kept them together all these years will allow them to see their way through this crazy weekend as well. This premiered at Toronto last year and I didn’t hear a thing about it. 12 months on and I still haven’t.Freeman and Keaton will draw in the crowds.

Survivor – After being mysteriously framed for a terrorist bombing, a Foreign Service Officer (Milla Jovovich) must evade government capture and death by a ruthless assassin (Pierce Brosnan) in order to stop the real perpetrators’ master-and much deadlier-plan. Ouch. This sounds like so many other films.

Weekly Recommendation: Girlhood. Will be predominantly screening at Palace (in fact, it could be exclusive) but well worth seeking out. Amongst the Top 10 to hit Australian cinemas in 2015 so far.