Friday, 27 June 2014

THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

You'd think that TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION would be at the top of my to-see list this week - but it's not. You'll know why if you've read my review in a previous post ...


MY TOP PICK TO SEE


Instead, top of my list to see is the Afrikaan romantic comedy, PAD NA JOU HART. I wish I could tell you what that means but I can't. It's an adventure romance in which 'Basson has five days to make it to his father's funeral in Cape Town, but needs to complete certain tasks on this trip before he can call the family company his own. On the road he meets free-spirited bohemian girl, Amory. As they journey across the breathtaking landscape of South Africa, they meet wonderful characters that allow for hilarious moments and life-changing experiences. Their trip takes a sudden turn for the worst when a villainous figure makes an appearance. Basson and Amory are faced with disappointment and heartache. On the road called life, it is inevitable that you will take some wrong turns. But no matter how hard the road might be, on route to true love is where you will find your true north.' (Anonymous) It's getting lots of high ratings so should be a good movie!


OTHERS TO SEE


THE LAST IMPRESARIO is about 'the most famous person you have never heard of'. Well... that's helpful, isn't it! People are enjoying this documentary biography.


MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


JERSEY BOYS is the story of four young men from the wrong side of the tracks in New Jersey who came together to form the iconic 1960s rock group The Four Seasons. It's a biographical, drama, musical based, I believe, on a stage play. Critics don't particularly like it. The Wrap's Alonso Duralde says It works in the hits, and it casts singers who make those hits sound virtually identical to the original versions. What the movie doesn't do is answer the question, “Why did I just spend 134 minutes watching the Frankie Valli episode of 'Behind the Music'?” General public audiences, though, are giving it an average of ***1/2 stars. You'll need to make your own mind up about this one!

Well... you probably all know about Transformers. TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION has come to town. It tells the "story" of an automobile mechanic (Mark Wahlberg) and his daughter (Nicola Peltz) who make a discovery that brings down the Autobots - and a paranoid government official - on them. If you only want to go and see this movie for the 3D special effects and action, go for it. And if you are going to see it at all, make sure you go see it in a cinema in 3D. And whatever you do, read my review in a previous post first!

If you are into fashion you might want to see YVES SAINT LAURENT, a look at the life of French designer Yves Saint Laurent from the beginning of his career in 1958 when he met his lover and business partner, Pierre Berge. The Playlist's Jessica Kiang describes it this way: Over the twenty-odd years the film covers, Saint Laurent is scene-by-scene depicted as a genius, a manic-depressive, a polyamorist, a drug taker, a mercurial friend, a partier and a terribly, terribly sensitive soul. He undoubtedly was all of these things and more, it's just a pity he doesn't also come across as a person. A pity.

ONE TO AVOID


The French/Belgium comedy, THE VOLCANO (with a title impossible for me to pronounce - Eyjafjallajökull - go on, give it a go!) is summarised by Jiilo_Kim on IMDB: For travelers around the world, the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull is a downer. For Alain and Valerie, it's a catastrophe. For if they are to make it in time to the tiny Greek village where their daughter's wedding is taking place, the two divorcees have to swallow their pathological hatred for each other and hit the road together. I've already seen this and will review shortly, but just know that the general public are rating it an average of **1/2 stars.

That's it for this week. See you at the movies! And watch out for my reviews as I see them!

NB: synopses of movies are adapted from IMDB.

3D TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION

An automobile mechanic and his daughter make a discovery that brings down the Autobots - and a paranoid government official - on them.

Not much to say about this movie. Absolutely stunning 3D, brilliant CGI animation, non-stop action, superb cinematography -- and totally boring, disjointed, superficial, poorly acted story. Give it a miss unless you want to see for the 3D and effects.

**1/2

Friday, 20 June 2014

THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY

A period thriller centered on a con artist, his wife, and a stranger who flee Athens after one of them is caught up in the death of a private detective.

What a delightful little gem. Reminded me of those old Hitchcock thrillers we used to watch which had a straightforward plot, intriguing twists, and a satisfying resolution. Viggo Mortenson (Chester MacFarland), Kirsten Dunst (Colette MacFarland) and Oscar Isaac (Rydel) are all excellent and portray their characters, and the tensions between them, perfectly. The story develops at a good pace. Set in Greece, there's some beautiful landscapes. Elegant, engaging, and thoroughly enjoyable.

****

3D HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2

When Hiccup and Toothless discover an ice cave that is home to hundreds of new wild dragons and the mysterious Dragon Rider, the two friends find themselves at the center of a battle to protect the peace.

A delightful sequel. The best things about the movie are the amazing animation - the superb detail, the rich colours - the relationships between the humans and animals. The story is not as rich or complex as the first movie but there is lots of action. The dragons are beautiful and quirky and look great in 3D. If you liked the first How to Train Your Dragon, you will definitely like this one. So will the kids!

***1/2

Thursday, 19 June 2014

<< THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES >>

How to Train Your Dragon 2
Ok... some goodies in the cinema release box this week...

MY TOP PICK TO SEE

Head of my list is HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2. When Hiccup and Toothless discover an ice cave that is home to hundreds of new wild dragons and the mysterious Dragon Rider, the two friends find themselves at the center of a battle to protect the peace. If you saw the first How to Train Your Dragon you'll just have to go and see this one! The Austin Chronicle's Kimberley Jones
says 'I laughed, I cried, I longed for a pet dragon to call my own.' Really looking forward to seeing this one!'

OTHERS TO SEE

Lots of people are enjoying 22 JUMP STREET in officers Schmidt and Jenkowhich, after making their way through high school (twice), find thatbig changes are in store for them when they go deep undercover at a local college. Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern thinks that 'The repetitions are meant as a sort of metajoke, and it works well enough, more often than not, though heightened levels of raunch and chaos seem not so much meta as frantic.' I agree. You can read my brief review in the previous post.

The story of an unlikely friendship between a bear, Ernest, and a young mouse named Celestine in ERNEST & CELESTINE looks cute. Looks like it will worth checking out. RogerEbert.com describes 'Ernest and Celestine [as] the coziest movie you'll likely see all year. Every frame is suffused with a fireplace kind of warmth that, for me at least, cast an immediate spell that didn't let up.' Looks like it might be good for a family outing.

In GALORE, it's a sweltering summer before the final year of school and Billie and Laura share every secret except for Billie's biggest secret - she's crazy in love with Laura's boyfriend, Danny. When Billie's social worker mum takes in Isaac, a troubled teenager looking to get his life straight, the delicate balance of the three friends' lives is disrupted. As bushfires threaten the edge of their suburbs and they immerse themselves in the swirl of parties, possible love and the intensity of sex and desire, the world of the four teenagers is changed forever as their secrets are revealed and their lives, friendships and loves are thrown into chaos. Looks interesting...

For lovers of drama, music and romance (and who doesn't!), the French movie GABRIELLE looks like it will be ok to see. 'Gabrielle is a young woman with Williams syndrome who has a contagious joie de vivre and an exceptional musical gift. Since she met her boyfriend Martin, at the recreation centre where they are choir members, they have been inseparable. However, because they are "different," their loved ones are fearful of their relationship. As the choir prepares for an important music festival, Gabrielle does everything she can to gain her independence. As determined as she is, Gabrielle must still confront other people's prejudices as well as her own limitations in the hope of experiencing a love far from the "ordinary".' - Written by micro_scope

And, finally, THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY is a thriller centered on a con artist, his wife, and a stranger who flee Athens after one of them is caught up in the death of a private detective. Sounds intriguing and definitely is on my list to see. According to The Hollywood Reporter's Deborah Young 'On his first trip behind the camera, the British-Iranian Amini shows his skill at working with actors and sensing the way they can fill out literary characters. His screenplay generally feels more naturalistic than Highsmith, the dialogue less spare.'

That's it for this week. See you at the movies!

NB: synopses of movies are adapted from IMDB.

22 JUMP STREET (movie)

After making their way through high school (twice), big changes are in store for officers Schmidt and Jenko when they go deep undercover at a local college.

Slightly better than the first on (21 Jump Street). But still a mixture of very crude humour that isn't really very funny and some high moments that bring a laugh. Some of the cleverest moments are when the two main characters discuss their partnership with lots of double meanings. So, overall, entertaining. There's also some very funny stills during the first part of the credits, so hang around to watch them.

***

Monday, 16 June 2014

THE ROVER (movie)

10 years after a global economic collapse, a hardened, ruthless ex-soldier tracks down the men who stole his only possession. As he travels through the lawless Australian outback, he takes a damaged young man as his unwitting accomplice.

Excellent movie! Australia provides stunning landscapes for menacing plots and this story is gripping from beginning to end with the landscapes contributing to the constant tension.  The cinematography is sometimes tight, focusing in on faces and places, and at other times widens out to set the story in a desolate wasteland that mirrors the collapse of the country - economically, socially, morally. Guy Pearce (who plays Eric) and Robert Pattinson (playing Rey) are brilliant in their roles and their characters develop slowly and surely over the course of the film. Robert Pattinson, in particular, shows tremendous depth and nuance. The mystery at the heart of the story - why Eric is so desperate to recover his stolen car and pay such a high personal cost for it - is stunningly revealed at the end of the movie. The script is tight with minimal dialogue - not one scene and not one word is wasted. The violence, which bursts on screen occasionally, is perfectly timed and just enough to support the shocking story. While the narrative arc may seem derivative and predictable at times, the ending completely reframes the whole story and makes this movie ultimately fresh and original.

****

Thursday, 12 June 2014

THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Ready to head to the cinema to catch one of the new movies opening this week? Not a great line up but a couple will be worth seeing.

MY TOP PICK TO SEE
My top pick this week is the new Australian movie THE ROVER. 10 years after a global economic collapse, a hardened, ruthless ex-soldier tracks down the men who stole his only possession. As he travels through the lawless Australian outback, he takes a damaged young man as his unwitting accomplice. It stars Guy Pearce (Memento) and Robert Pattinson (Twilight). According to The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw, Michôd creates a good deal of ambient menace in The Rover; Pearce has a simmering presence. But I felt there was a bit of muddle, and the clean lines of conflict and tension had been blurred: the dystopian future setting doesn't add much and hasn't been very rigorously imagined.

OTHERS TO SEE
GOOD VIBRATIONS is a biographical drama that chronicles Terri Hooley's life, a record-store owner instrumental in developing Belfast's punk-rock scene.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT
For those of you who like some drama and romance, you may wish to check out THE FACE OF LOVE. A widow falls for a guy who bears a striking resemblance to her late husband. But there's a decision to make according to The Dissolve’s Mike D'Angelo: Whether it's worth seeing a film solely for one amazing performance is a personal judgment call; for those who take that particular leap once in a while, though, here's a worthy candidate.

Finally, the comedy BLENDED, Adam Sandler's latest. After a bad blind date, a man and woman find themselves stuck together at a resort for families, where their attraction grows as their respective kids benefit from the burgeoning relationship. Critics don't like it much. For example, Austin Chronicle’s Marjorie Baumgarten finds that The laziness is what irks me most about Blended. Everything from the re-teaming of the two stars and their "Wedding Singer" director, Frank Coraci, reeks of moviemaking by checklist.

That's it for this week. See you at the movies!

 

 

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

THE PATTERN OF FEAR by Drew Chapman

The Pattern of FearThe Pattern of Fear by Drew Chapman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a great read! A real page-turner of political intrigue, conspiracy, drawing on current global tensions with a story that is easy to believe. Superbly paced with short chapters that left me wanting to keep on reading. Drew Chapman has come up with a fascinatingly original plot and an ending that is just right. A remarkable achievement for a debut novel. Hard to imagine how something this good could be repeated, but let's hope that this is the first in a long writing career!

View all my reviews

Sunday, 8 June 2014

EDGE OF TOMORROW (3D)

An officer finds himself caught in a time loop in a war with an alien race. His skills increase as he faces the same brutal combat scenarios, and his union with a Special Forces warrior gets him closer and closer to defeating the enemy.

One of the most entertaining sci-fi action movies I've seen for a while. Match Tom Cruise with the right part, add in Emily Blunt, stir in a very clever time-bending premise, mix some great action with stunning 3D, and top off with some innovative alien creatures - and you end up with fast-paced, on the edge-of-the seat thrills, that makes nearly two hours go by in what seems like a few minutes. The special effects are top-notch. There's touches of humour here and there that relieve tension. The chemistry between Blunt and Cruise was good. The direction is excellent, particularly in the first 2/3 of the story where most of the time bending occurs. All in all, a high quality movie viewing experience. Highly recommended if you like sci-fi and action with an intelligent story...

****1/2

Friday, 6 June 2014

NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION

12 YEARS A SLAVE

In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.

An important subject that educates its audience more than it engages emotionally. If it wasn't for the violence in the story it would be quite flat. Northrup is portrayed as essentially standing back and observing the events happening around him. The Wikipedia article on Northrup mentions that he made a number of attempts at escaping. We only really see one subtly hinted at in the movie. It is as though the director has allowed his camera to just linger on the moments when abuse is occurring giving us time to empathise with the horror - but for the rest of the movie there's a rather rigid and repetitive telling of the manner in which slaves lived and worked. I get the feeling that there must have been a lot more depth to Northup, particularly after the movie finishes with some brief facts about what he did following his freedom from slavery. I would have liked to have seen the movie shortened by about 30 minutes with some of this other history being explored.

Chiwetel Ejiofor is excellent as Northup with a lot of this pain being expressed as the camera moves closeup to his face. For me, one of the most compelling scenes occurred when Northup was left to hang from a tree, just high enough to reach the ground with his tiptoes, suffering for hours as people just went on with their everyday activities around him. It was quite shocking.

The supporting cast is also very good, especially Benedict Cumberbatch (Ford) and Michael Fassbender (Edwin Epps). The weakest character is played by Brad Pitt (Bass) who was also one of the producers of the movie.

The soundtrack was interesting, particularly in the first half of the movie with quite a raw and "disturbing" texture as the backdrop to the events. The cinematography was stunning. In fact, I would say that browsing through stills of some of the scenes would be quite stunning. It's a shame that that same artistry didn't spill over into the overall structure of the story.

This a movie worth watching because it's important to remind ourselves of the horror of slavery. However, it felt overlong and didn't have the potency I had hoped.

***1/2

 

 

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (movie)

Hazel and Gus are two teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them on a journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous given that Hazel's other constant companion is an oxygen tank, Gus jokes about his prosthetic leg, and they met and fell in love at a cancer support group.

Clearly made for a teen audience - which is fine given the book was written for young adults. I, and the three people with me, must have been the oldest members of the audience. And judging by the laughter and audible crying going on, the young crowd were thoroughly engaged. The script follows the book almost rigidly so there are no surprises for those of us who've read it. Even so, the story has been competently transferred to the screen with the two lead actors (Shailene Woodley as Hazel; Ansel Elgort as Gus) to a good job of their roles and are quite believable. Woodley (most recently seen in DIVERGENT) is particularly nuanced in portraying a a rich character with depth and sensitivity. Willem Dafoe puts in a good turn as van Houten. While the story is emotional and moving, the screenplay avoids soppiness and the themes of grief, dying, and friendship are handled honestly and directly. The developing friendship between Gus and Hazel is natural and fresh. The lighting was a bit harsh throughout and looked too "clean". Given the themes I would have liked a bit more grittiness in the cinematography. Overall, I think readers of the book will be happy. For those who haven't, it's a gentle piece of entertainment. Make sure you take some tissues.

***1/2

 

 

THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Some very different genres hit our screens this week.


MY TOP PICKS TO SEE

Top of the list is THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. Hazel and Gus are two teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them on a journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous given that Hazel's other constant companion is an oxygen tank, Gus jokes about his prosthetic leg, and they met and fell in love at a cancer support group. I've just been to see this and will post my review very shortly. Variety's Andrew Barker: Director Josh Boone is hardly the most distinctive cinematic stylist, but he's smart enough to let his scenes linger for a few beats longer than most mainstream directors would, and seems to trust his actors to carry their own dramatic weight.

In a very different genre, Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt star in the action sci-fi EDGE OF TOMORROW. An officer finds himself caught in a time loop in a war with an alien race. His skills increase as he faces the same brutal combat scenarios, and his union with a Special Forces warrior gets him closer and closer to defeating the enemy. The trailers look intriguing and the average ratings from public and critics are high. This one is definitely on my list to see. The Dissolve's Keith Phipps: Edge Of Tomorrow's finale can't live up to what's come before, though that's mostly because what comes before is so rich and unusual, particularly in the middle of a summer blockbuster season that doesn't always value richness or novelty.

OTHERS TO SEE

If you are lucky enough to be near a cinema showing OMAR then check it out. A young Palestinian freedom fighter agrees to work as an informant after he's tricked into an admission of guilt by association in the wake of an Israeli soldier's killing. New York Post's Farran Smith Nehme: Omar eventually becomes a sun-scorched neo-noir - and the fade-out is an unforgettable jolter.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT

If you are interested in cycling you might be interested in RISING FROM ASHES. ’Rising from Ashes is a feature length documentary about the first Rwandan national cycling team in their bid to make history and represent their country at the 2012 Olympics. Competing in a white man's sport, reserved for the privileged, a rag tag group of cyclists coached by the first American to ride in the Tour de France, are transformed into a powerful symbol of hope for a country recovering from one of the world's most devastating genocides.’ (Anonymous) New York Daily News's Joe Neumaier: Filmed over six years, "Ashes" is joyous and uplifting, full of spirit, memorable athletes (including Olympian Adrien Niyonshuti) and remarkable achievements, both big and small.

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY: HIM and THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY: HER are two movies that tells a story that reveals both perspectives of a couple finding their own paths to rebuild their lives and their love. Intriguing but I do wonder whether the idea will work in practice.

TO AVOID

One movie to avoid this week is GRACE OF MONACO. It's the story of former Hollywood star Grace Kelly's crisis of marriage and identity, during a political dispute between Monaco's Prince Rainier III and France's Charles De Gaulle, and a looming French invasion of Monaco in the early 1960s. It's been universally rated low. Give it a miss! HitFix: A hilariously ham-handed attempt to dig beneath the Kelly mystique, only to find further foil-wrapped layers of mystique beneath. Well, maybe not mystique so much as a perfumed blankness.

That's it for this week. See you at the movies!

Thursday, 5 June 2014

THE TRIP TO ITALY

Two men, six meals in six different places on a road trip around Italy. Liguria, Tuscany, Rome, Amalfi and ending in Capri.

Was bored after the first half hour or so. Sure, the scenery is lovely and what they ate often looked good. But their conversation was repetitive (mostly doing impersonations of other people). Occasionally they touched on deep issues like ageing and relationships and there were a few very funny moments, but there wasn't enough of it. Not worth my money. Suitable for watching on TV - no reason to see it in a cinema.

**1/2