Jan 162016
 

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Veteran American independent filmmaker Todd Haynes (Safe, Far From Heaven and Mildred Pierce) doesn’t make many films, but the master of precision is consistently fascinating on an academic level, and because he works outside of Hollywood, must work hard to source funding. He is celebrated for his cinematic representation of gay people, authentic period reproduction, experimentation with gaze, and his fascinating female characters, whom he offers point-of-view and agency. They are always examined in thoughtful and complex ways, making Patricia Highsmith’s groundbreaking source material, The Price of Salt, a perfect fit for his sensibilities. Haynes has worked with in the past and drawn stunning performances from Julianne Moore (Safe and Far From Heaven) and Kate Winslet (Mildred Pierce), and this is second collaboration with Cate Blanchett (who takes on one of the portrayals of Bob Dylan in I’m Not There).

His exquisite and elegantly restrained romantic drama Carol, which has been on every film buff’s most anticipated list since its première at the Cannes Film Festival (where it won the Queer Palm), is an enchantingly beautiful production. With striking 16mm film compositions, an authentic recreation of 1950s Manhattan, and a lovely score from Carter Burwell – it is a moving adaptation of Highsmith’s transcendent, heart-swelling tale. She is perhaps best known for writing The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train (which have also been adapted for the screen), but due to the book’s homosexual relationship, she wrote The Price of Salt under the pseudonym Claire Morgan. Written for the screen by Phyllis Nagy, it has gone on to be a multi-BAFTA and Academy Award-nominee. The two lead actresses, the faultless Blanchett and the astonishing Mara (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Side Effects), are absolutely radiant, but every frame of the film is a work of art. Continue reading »

Oct 052015
 

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This prequel/origin story inspired by the beloved characters created by J.M Barrie and directed with the predicted visual flair by Joe Wright (Atonement, Hanna) is a completely batty and rather fun holiday fantasy adventure with enough pure magic buried beneath its stock central arc, dark themes, and questionable casting to remain immersive. I am not sure what the youngsters will make of all this often-hyperactive, high-flying pirates vs. fairies prophet-fulfilling escapade, but it is certainly an unusual and transportive journey. Often catching me unawares with its obscure pop references – Hugh Jackman’s scene-stealing Blackbeard is introduced with a ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ mass chant (?) – this gleefully derivative venture presents a version of how a young orphan discovered his true destiny in Neverland and became the hero forever known as Peter Pan.

Living a bleak existence at a London orphanage, the rebellious and mischievous 12-year-old Peter (Levi Miller) finds himself whisked away by pirates to the fantastical world of Neverland, where he is put to work as a miner alongside rigged but earnest long-time resident James Hook (Garrett Hedlund). When he eludes punishment via unexpected abilities, he learns that he might he might possess the key to overthrowing the Pirate regime led by Blackbeard and the whereabouts of his mother. Peter, Hook and warrior princess Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) band together to save Neverland from the ruthless reign. 

Pan is visually interesting – the steam-punk inspired design of the various locations, spectacular set pieces and extravagant costumes are full of pleasures – and driven by an exceptional score from John Powell (How to Train Your Dragon). It also features a number of wild over-the-top performances that fit snugly into the film’s clowning-around sort of tone. Hedlund is especially ridiculous, and clearly not suited to the direction. Jackman appears to have a ball, and Rooney Mara lends her class to an underdeveloped character.

Much to my surprise I was on board with Pan throughout, even through the patches of sloppy visual effects. Comparisons to the Wachowski’s narratively unwieldy space-opera Jupiter Ascending from earlier in the year are understandable. I found this much more coherent though, and by taking the chances that it does, distinguished.

3.5/5

By Andrew Buckle

The Facts

Director: Joe Wright
Writer(s): Jason Fuchs (screenplay)
Starring: Levi Miller, Hugh Jackman, Garret Hedlund, Rooney Mara
Runtime: 111 minutes
Release date(s): Australia and New Zealand: September 24, 2015

Aug 082013
 


 
Okay, so I feel like I’ve had my head in the sand. Until the trailer for Her dropped today, I had never heard of the film. Considering the pedigree of those involved, I’m wondering if I need my head checked.
Written and directed by Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adapatation, Where the Wild Things Are), the film stars Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix.

The official synopsis is as follows (via The Playlist)

In the not so distant future, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), a lonely writer purchases a newly developed operating system designed to meet the user’s every needs. To Theodore’s surprise, a romantic relationship develops between him and his operating system. This unconventional love story blends science fiction and romance in a sweet tale that explores the nature of love and the ways that technology isolates and connects us all

Apart from the fact the premise sounds interesting (Siri to a total new level?), I was completely blown away by the fact Joaquin Phoenix can actually smile. Seriously, watch that trailer and see for yourself! It’s magical.

What do you think? Is this film now on your must-see radar?