Saturday, 30 August 2014

FELONY

Three male detectives become embroiled in a tense struggle after a tragic accident that leaves a child in a coma. One is guilty of a crime, one will try to cover it up, and the other attempts to expose it. How far will these men go to both disguise and unravel the truth? -- IMDB

A brilliant new Australian crime drama. Joel Edgerton is excellent as Malcolm Toohey, as the cop who knocks a child off his bike and doesn't admit to it. Jai Courtney (Jim Melic) is also good as the colleague who is troubled by what's happening and is disturbed by the coverup. But Tom Wilkinson as the experienced and worn-out detective who pressures Malcolm to persevere with the cover up is incredible and steals most of the scenes he is in. The story is excellent with more of a focus on the internal struggles of the protagonists resulting from guilt and ethical dilemmas than on the crime itself. It's a refreshing take on the crime drama which is directed well and is tightly woven, keeping us on the emotional edge until the end. This is a morally complex story that is intellectually and emotionally rewarding. Make sure you see it!

****1/2

IF I STAY

Life changes in an instant for young Mia Hall after a car accident puts her in a coma. During an out-of-body experience, she must decide whether to wake up and live a life far different than she had imagined. -- IMDB

Wasn't expecting much of this young adult tear-jerker - but I ended up quite enjoying it. Capitalising on the contemporary fascination with near death experiences (NDE). The story is clichéd and emotionally manipulative, but slick and well made. Some people have complained about the flashback approach, but I thought it was effective. Chloë Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass) has come a long way and she shows a good deal of maturity in the lead role. There are also some good messages about love, friendship, sacrifice for others, and relationships. Not bad.

***1/2

MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT

A romantic comedy about an Englishman brought in to help unmask a possible swindle. Personal and professional complications ensue. -- IMDb

Disappointing. Not the usual magic from Woody Allen. While the themes of religion, science, human gullibility, skepticism, etc are all very contemporary, the dialogue is contrived and preachy. It looks more like an amateur stage production than the result of the many years of experience that Allen has. Colin Firth seems to enjoy what he is doing and Emma Stone is cute but her performance is pretty superficial. If you are going to see this, wait for the DVD.

**1/2

Thursday, 28 August 2014

DVD RECOMMENDATION

Looking for a DVD for the weekend? Check out...


DIVERGENT

In a world divided by factions based on virtues, Tris learns she's Divergent and won't fit in. When she discovers a plot to destroy Divergents, Tris and the mysterious Four must find out what makes Divergents dangerous before it's too late.

****

 

 

<< THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES >>

I'm on the last few days of my holidays so decided to have a movie marathon day today - and saw four movies, all of which opened today. So watch out for my reviews shortly. In the meantime, here's what has opened in our cinemas today...

MY TOP PICK TO SEE


There's no doubt that the top movie to check out this week is PREDESTINATION about the life of a time-traveling Temporal Agent who, on his final assignment, must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time. I've seen this one twice now - it's brilliant! I'll post my review shortly but for now, I'll let you know I rate it ****1/2. A great new Australian movie.

OTHERS TO SEE


Another Australian movie is FELONY. Three male detectives become embroiled in a tense struggle after a tragic accident that leaves a child in a coma. One is guilty of a crime, one will try to cover it up, and the other attempts to expose it. How far will these men go to both disguise and unravel the truth? Very interesting story. My review coming soon.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


A movie over which the general public and critics disagree. IF I STAY. Life changes in an instant for young Mia Hall after a car accident puts her in a coma. During an out-of-body experience, she must decide whether to wake up and live a life far different than she had imagined. I'm on the side of the general public with this one - my review coming soon. Not for everyone but if you like a tear-jerker aimed at the young adult demographic, this one will be for you.

MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT, Woody Allen's latest cinematic outing that some will enjoy but which critics are not enjoying. It's a romantic comedy about an Englishman brought in to help unmask a possible swindle. Personal and professional complications ensue.  Philadelphia Inquirer's Steven Rea is spot on: For all its visual delights, Magic in the Moonlight, the 44th feature written and directed by the admirably industrious Woody Allen, has to be one of his bigger duds. My review soon.

And, finally, one for the kids ... LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY'S RETURN. Dorothy wakes up in post-tornado Kansas, only to be whisked back to Oz to try to save her old friends the Scarecrow, the Lion, the Tin Man and Glinda from a devious new villain, the Jester. Wiser the owl, Marshal Mallow, China Princess and Tugg the tugboat join Dorothy on her latest magical journey through the colorful landscape of Oz to restore order and happiness to Emerald City. General public are rating it as average while the critics don't like it at all. RogerEbert.com's Susan Wloszczyna warns us that This is one of those movies that parents will have to ask themselves if they love their child enough to sit through it. At least "The Nut Job" is off the hook as the worst indie-made animated feature of the year. You decide!

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

NB: synopses of movies are adapted from IMDB. Opinions are mine unless quoted from cited sources.

Monday, 25 August 2014

PREDESTINATION

The life of a time-traveling Temporal Agent. On his final assignment, he must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time.

I was privileged to see a pre-screening of PREDESTINATION which opens in cinemas on 28 August. It's excellent! There have been lots of time travel movies made - and this one adds a brand new layer of complexity and intrigue to the genre. Sarah Snook (Not Suitable for Children) is brilliant - as always - in a breakout performance. Add Ethan Hawke  as co-star and the cast is great. The movie is very dialogue-driven, cerebral, and intellectually engaging. This one's for those viewers who want something to think about rather than just special effects and action. The first 1/3 was a touch slow, but necessary in the context of the whole narrative arc. Watch out for this one when it arrives in cinemas! And, by the way, try to see it without knowing anything much about it... One of the best sci-fi movies this year!

****1/2

THE 100-YEAR-OLD MAN WHO CLIMBED OUT THE WINDOW AND DISAPPEARED (Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann)

Dynamite expert Allan Karlsson's life, and the unlikely events following his escape from the old folk's home on his 100th birthday.

Very dry, quirky black humour that is marvellously entertaining. Watching a 100 year old man might seem boring, but the movie definitely is not! The lead actor (Robert Gustafsson), who is 50 years old in reality, does a great job of playing the 100-year-old man, Allan Karlsson - and the makeup is brilliant (it's already started winning awards). The story ranges through 100 years of world history as Allan gets involved in various surprising ways. Definitely worth a visit to the cinema.

***1/2

Saturday, 23 August 2014

FREEDOM

Two men separated by 100 years are united in their search for freedom. In 1856 a slave, Samuel Woodward and his family, escape from the Monroe Plantation near Richmond, Virginia. A secret network of ordinary people known as the Underground Railroad guide the family on their journey north to Canada. They are relentlessly pursued by the notorious slave hunter Plimpton. Hunted like a dog and haunted by the unthinkable suffering he and his forbears have endured, Samuel is forced to decide between revenge or freedom. 100 years earlier in 1748, John Newton the Captain of a slave trader sails from Africa with a cargo of slaves, bound for America. On board is Samuel's great grandfather whose survival is tied to the fate of Captain Newton. The voyage changes Newton's life forever and he creates a legacy that will inspire Samuel and the lives of millions for generations to come.

Average. Has a very strong (and sometimes very heavy handed) religious flavour with the song, Amazing Grace, by John Newton, providing the organising theme. True freedom is presented as that which comes from trust in the Christian God. The story did not have the power I thought it should have. The acting was adequate and the musical element undermined the emotional potency - although viewers who like musicals may experience it differently to me. The whole movie seems restrained - pulling back form the harsh realities of the slave trade. I suspect that it may be that way to ensure a broad audience. It is consistent with the distributors, Heritage Films International, which has a faith focus, according to its website. Movies supported by faith-based organisations tend, in my opinion, to promote somewhat sterile versions of reality - and I think that FREEDOM suffers from this. The most frightening aspect of the movie is the declaration at the end, just before the titles, that there are more people in slavery today than ever before in human history. While reminding ourselves of the past history of slavery is essential, I'd like to see more contemporary movies addressing what is happening today. It's a travesty that slavery hasn't yet been eradicated.

***

 

 

Thursday, 21 August 2014

SNOWPIERCER

Set in a future where a failed climate-change experiment kills all life on the planet except for a lucky few who boarded the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe, where a class system emerges.

SNOWPIECER is a very fresh, innovative take on the post apocalyptic genre. While there is lots of spectacular action, there is a solid foundation of social commentary - and asks the question, how far would we be prepared to go for the greater good? The ideas are not new, but the story conveys these old ideas in a stunning new way. The whole movie takes place on a train that travels once around the earth every year. Having all the action take place in a long, narrow space brings a trapped claustrophobic feel to the events. The cinematography is excellent - as the revolutionaries move from the back of the train to the front, the various sections of the train convey the variations in lifestyle of the inhabitants. There is a strange quirkiness to the script with elements of oddball humour that reinforces the peculiarity of the events. The characters are carefully drawn, the cast is outstanding, and we, as the audience, are respected as intelligent viewers. If you are put off by violence, then you might want to avoid this one. For the rest of us, this is a movie not to miss. It's a real roller coaster ride (well - a train ride, actually). I loved it.

****1/2

THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

A feast of movies opening this week - but that doesn't mean they are substantial meals, of course! Here they are...

MY TOP PICK TO SEE


I've been waiting to see SNOWPIERCER for a while now - the trailers look great. Well... it's finally here! Set in a future where a failed climate-change experiment kills all life on the planet except for a lucky few who boarded the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe, where a class system emerges. I managed to see it today and it's excellent! I'll review shortly. In the meantime, The Guardian's Andrew Pulver is spot on when he says, The way the allegory works out is not exactly subtle or unexpected, but is strangely moving, despite the gruesomeness that has gone before. All in all, a treat. Watch out for my review soon.

OTHERS TO SEE


THE 100-YEAR-OLD MAN WHO CLIMBED OUT THE WINDOW AND VANISHED looks charming. It's a Swedish adventure comedy about dynamite expert Allan Karlsson's life, and the unlikely events following his escape from the old folk's home on his 100th birthday. The original title of the movie is entertainment in itself: Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann. I wonder if they'll give us free tickets if we can pronounce it at the door!

Australian writer and musician, Nick Cave, is celebrated in 20,000 DAYS ON EARTH. It's a documentary in which Nick Cave marks his 20,000th day on the planet Earth. I don't know much about Nick Cave and I don't usually head to the cinema of documentaries. But this one might be worth it. According to Variety's Rob Nelson, it's An aptly intense and innovative study of pioneering rock poet Nick Cave, 20,000 Days on Earth playfully disguises itself as fiction while more than fulfilling the requirements of a biographical documentary.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


I haven't seen the original The Inbetweeners movie, but THE INBETWEENERS 2 has arrived with the general public rating it around ***1/2 stars. The movie description is rich with detail (not): Jay, Neil, Simon, and Will reunite in Australia for a holiday.

James Cameron, the director of Avatar, has produced a 3D documentary called DEEPSEA CHALLENGE which chronicles the filmmaker James Cameron's diving expeditions in his Deepsea Challenger submersible. The critics aren't overly happy with this one. For example, New York Daily News says that Seeing unexplored parts of our natural world in state-of-the-art 3-D is great. Listening to James Cameron explain how wonderful he is, while we see all that, is not. General public are rating it slightly above average - but not much.

Yet another slave trade movie arrives on our screens. FREEDOM tells the story of two men separated by 100 years who are united in their search for freedom. In 1856 a slave, Samuel Woodward and his family, escape from the Monroe Plantation near Richmond, Virginia. A secret network of ordinary people known as the Underground Railroad guide the family on their journey north to Canada. They are relentlessly pursued by the notorious slave hunter Plimpton. Hunted like a dog and haunted by the unthinkable suffering he and his forbears have endured, Samuel is forced to decide between revenge or freedom. 100 years earlier in 1748, John Newton the Captain of a slave trader sails from Africa with a cargo of slaves, bound for America. On board is Samuel's great grandfather whose survival is tied to the fate of Captain Newton. The voyage changes Newton's life forever and he creates a legacy that will inspire Samuel and the lives of millions for generations to come. Don't have any information about this one yet - will let you know when I have.

ONE TO AVOID


Finally, one to avoid - POSTMAN PAT: THE MOVIE. A veteran postman finds his beliefs challenged after he enters a TV talent show competition. The Hollywood Reporter's, Frank Scheck, reckons this movie ... is a mostly charmless and dark affair. And CineVue,'s Jamie Neish says it ... is a disappointment; a modern-day reinvention of a traditional, much-loved classic that differs so far from its comfort zone that it'll have a difficult time winning audiences, let alone maintaining there attention.

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

NB: synopses of movies are adapted from IMDB. Opinions are mine unless quoted from cited sources.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

BEGIN AGAIN

A chance encounter between a disgraced music-business executive and a young singer-songwriter new to Manhattan turns into a promising collaboration between the two talents.

Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo are nicely paired in this music-oriented drama/comedy. While there is an element of predictability the final outcomes of the movie are intelligent and believable. The music is not the dominant element of the film (which is hit and miss) - rather, the relationship between Knightley’s character, Gretta, and Ruffalo’s, Dan form the skeleton of the story with each of them dealing with secondary relationships in their lives. Particularly touching is the relationship between Dan and his daughter, Violet, played sensitively and maturely by Hailee Steinfeld (Ender's Game). BEGIN AGAIN is not a demanding film - it travels easily and is enjoyable to watch. Knightley and Ruffalo are both excellent in their roles with a good supporting cast. An appealing movie worth checking out.

***1/2

 

 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

THE EXPENDABLES 3

Barney augments his team with new blood for a personal battle: to take down Conrad Stonebanks, the Expendables co-founder and notorious arms trader who is hell bent on wiping out Barney and every single one of his associates.

This movie is essentially violence pornography. The superficial, disjointed plot is merely a vehicle for the next occasion of gratuitous violence that eventually becomes totally boring. Old men, with big muscles, mumble clichéd lines while attempting to be funny. This time they are supplemented by young upstarts who inevitably have to be rescued proving that the oldies haven't lost it yet. The action is completely unrealistic (which it is supposed to be) but its execution is tired and predictable. At just over two hours it was tedious in the extreme. If it wasn't for the motor-mouth character of Antonio Banderas this movie would have absolutely nothing to recommend it - and even then, I wouldn't recommend it. Mind-numbing and a complete waste of time and totally expendable.

*1/2

 

 

Sunday, 17 August 2014

GOD'S NOT DEAD

College philosophy professor Mr. Radisson's curriculum is challenged by his new student, Josh, who believes God exists.

Evangelical Christian cinema hits a new low with this propaganda movie designed to convince the viewer that atheism (and science) is irrational and provides an inadequate world view for modern society. Now, there is nothing wrong with literature that engages in the contemporary debate about the existence of [the Christian] God. My gripes with this movie have nothing to do with the differences in belief between the characters. There is some outstanding material on both sides of the debate worthy of consideration. But GOD'S NOT DEAD is most assuredly not one of them. It is superficial, predictable, contrived, emotionally manipulative, and misrepresentative of atheism and, in particular, science. Just about every character in the movie is converted (what did you expect?!). The arguments offered by the main character are simplistic and, frequently, caricatures of what science actually says or the best atheist thinkers actually believe. Most of them could be effectively critiqued by any thinking school-kid. The movie's explorations of physics and philosophy demonstrate almost no actual engagement with the ideas and are reductionistic and ill-informed. Any intelligent non-Christian would, in my opinion, be quite offended by the way in which it portrays them - and any intelligent Christian would probably despair of the ridiculous, narrow-minded Christianity that the makers so obviously believe is true. The film essentially demonises atheists, scientists, and Muslims. Just about every distorted stereotype is paraded in this travesty of a movie. Fundamentalist Christians will probably lap it up and will have reinforced the prejudices already held against science, philosophy, and other people who differ from them. Give it a wide berth!

*1/2

THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY

The Kadam family clashes with Madame Mallory, proprietress of a celebrated French restaurant, after they open their own nearby eatery, until undeniable chemistry causes the Madame to take gifted young chef Hassan under her wing.

A beautiful movie - beautiful food, beautiful people, beautiful scenery. It's a "nice" movie - gentle, romantic, nothing offensive, just a quietly satisfying entree. But that's also its weakness. THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY is predictable and undemanding. But sometimes it's nice to relax into a film and be entertained. The cast do a good job of the straightforward script with Helen Mirren putting on a reasonably authentic French accent. The developing relationship between her character  (Madame Mellory) and that of Papa (Om Puri) is amusing and is a mirror of that between the other younger stars played by Manish Dayal and Charlotte Le Bon. For a lay-back couple of hours of light entertainment, check it out.

***1/2

Friday, 15 August 2014

DVD RECOMMENDATION

Looking for a DVD for the weekend? Check out...

MUPPETS MOST WANTED

While on a grand world tour, The Muppets find themselves wrapped into an European jewel-heist caper headed by a Kermit the Frog look-alike and his dastardly sidekick.

I was really surprised with this movie - a thoroughly enjoyable, celebratory, funny piece of entertainment. Definitely worth your time hiring it for the weekend!

***1/2

<< THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES >>

Things are very light on this week in relation to new cinema releases. Here goes...

MY TOP PICK TO SEE


PALO ALTO tells the story of shy, sensitive April who is the class virgin, torn between an illicit flirtation with her soccer coach Mr. B and an unrequited crush on sweet stoner Teddy. Emily, meanwhile, offers sexual favors to every boy to cross her path - including both Teddy and his best friend Fred, a live wire without filters or boundaries. As one high school party bleeds into the next - and April and Teddy struggle to admit their mutual affection - Fred's escalating recklessness starts to spiral into chaos. It doesn’t look like an outstanding movie, but according to Variety’s Peter Debruge, While Palo Alto doesn't seem to be saying anything new exactly, it boasts a clear and confident voice of its own, and it will be exciting to see where the young Coppola goes from here.


MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY has been advertised on our screens for ages! It’s finally here. The Kadam family clashes with Madame Mallory, proprietress of a celebrated French restaurant, after they open their own nearby eatery, until undeniable chemistry causes the Madame to take gifted young chef Hassan under her wing. I’ve been to see it and I agree with the general public that it is an average movie - but enjoyable (my review will arrive soon!). The critics, generally, are not happy with this one. The Wrap’s Alonso Duralde says, It delivers the kind of sentimental sledgehammering I found myself willing to forgive - the presence of Helen Mirren goes a long way in that regard - but once the story goes off on a pointless tangent, the whole soufflé collapses.

Surprisingly, in the Maybe/Maybe Not category is THE EXPENDABLES 3. Barney Sylvester Stallone Stallone) augments his team with new blood for a personal battle: to take down Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), the Expendables co-founder and notorious arms trader who is hell bent on wiping out Barney and every single one of his associates. I’ve generally enjoyed the stupidity of the previous iterations of this series. So may give it a go despite what Austin Chronicle’s Marjorie Baumgarten’s take on it: What the movie ultimately demonstrates is that the sum total is less than the individual parts when you add together Rocky, the Terminator, Indiana Jones, Mad Max, Blade, Zorro, Hercules, and the Transporter. We’ll see.


ONE TO AVOID


GOD’S NOT DEAD is about college philosophy professor Mr. Radisson's curriculum which is challenged by his new student, Josh, who believes God exists. I will post my review of this one shortly, but The A.V. Club’s Todd VanDerWerff summarises it well: Even by the rather lax standards of the Christian film industry, God's Not Dead is a disaster. Watch out for my more in-depth (but brief!) review!

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

NB: synopses of movies are adapted from IMDB. Opinions are mine unless quoted from cited sources.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

CHARLIE'S COUNTRY

Blackfella Charlie is out of sorts. The intervention is making life more difficult on his remote community, what with the proper policing of whitefella laws now. So Charlie takes off, to live the old way, but in so doing sets off a chain of events in his life that has him return to his community chastened, and somewhat the wiser.

Gulpilil is brilliant as always. It's heart-rending to see the way in which Aboriginal people are oppressed and diminished by misunderstanding and mistreatment. It's slow-moving and reflective in its naturalistic rawness. Sad and moving.

***1/2

 

 

3D GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

Light years from Earth, 26 years after being abducted, Peter Quill finds himself the prime target of a manhunt after discovering an orb wanted by Ronan the Accuser.

Just really good fun. Someone has called this movie the Star Wars of this generation. I can see why - but we'll have to see as the episodes unfold. The story is fast-paced, there's lots of action, some excellent humour, good characters (Rocket is my new hero!), and a great soundtrack. The 3D is well done. A wonderful ride around the galaxy you really must jump on!

****

Saturday, 9 August 2014

THE ADAM QUEST

The Adam Quest: Eleven Scientists Who Held on to a Strong Faith While Wrestling with the Mystery of Human OriginsThe Adam Quest: Eleven Scientists Who Held on to a Strong Faith While Wrestling with the Mystery of Human Origins by Tim Stafford
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Science and faith should be allies, not opponents, in the search for truth. But when it comes to understanding the very beginnings of life, it is no easy task to reconcile the history taught in the Bible with the discoveries of the scientific community. Author Tim Stafford watched the tension between the beliefs of Darwin and the teaching of Genesis shake the faith of his family, ruin friendships, and leave Christians in the field of science feeling as though the doors of the church were closed to their profession. He believes this civil war can stop. The scientific record and the truth of the Bible aren’t mutually exclusive. The Adam Quest offers a compelling new look at the beginnings of life as Stafford puts questions of dinosaurs, genealogy, and the age of the earth to eleven world-class scientists. A sweeping book — touching everything from advances in genetics to a particle physicist striving to become Anglican priest — Stafford uses the stories and journeys of these remarkable men and women to provide a new diversity of answers. Scientific progress is carefully detailed, while the struggle toward truth and toward God is humanized. A deeply informative look at Christians working in science, this book is for both believers and those who harbor doubts — an intersection of faith and science, and a safe place for questions. Whether you believe in a young earth, intelligent design, evolutionary creationism, or something else, The Adam Quest offers a chance to strengthen your faith, deepen your knowledge, and bring science back into the church.

MY REVIEW: One of the most helpful and engaging books I have read on the debate between young earth creationism (YEC), intelligent design (ID), and evolutionary creationism (EC) I have read. The author has interviewed eleven scientists and allowed their perspectives to stand as they are. The interviews are presented in the order from YEC -> ID -> EC. Each view is presented respectfully and intelligently. It is fascinating to hear how these scientists have arrived at their perspectives and the humility they convey about what they believe and know. The author, Tim Stafford, concludes the book by sharing his own position and, in the process, describing the strengths and weaknesses of each perspective. The book includes a comprehensive index making it even more useful. The writing is engaging, clear, courteous and thoroughly constructive. I highly recommend it every Christian, of whatever persuasion on the issue, and anyone else interested in the contemporary debates raging within evangelical Christianity (in particular) on creationism/evolution.

View all my reviews

Friday, 8 August 2014

NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION

Looking for a DVD for the weekend? Check out...

NEED FOR SPEED

Fresh from prison, a street racer who was framed by a wealthy business associate joins a cross country race with revenge in mind. His ex-partner, learning of the plan, places a massive bounty on his head as the race begins.

If you like fast cars check this one out. Story is cheesy at times but the driving is very good - director comes out of the stunt driving world so it's more realistic than the Fast and Furious franchise. Enjoyable if you start with low expectations and like speeding cars!

***1/2

Thursday, 7 August 2014

<< THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES >>

Just three new release movies opening in cinemas this week...

MY TOP PICK TO SEE


GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is the one to check out this week. Light years from Earth, 26 years after being abducted, Peter Quill finds himself the prime target of a manhunt after discovering an orb wanted by Ronan the Accuser. If you've seen the trailers you'll know this one looks like a rollicking adventure with splashes of humour. Movie Nation's Roger Moore says it's Laugh-out-loud funny and production-designed to death, Guardians of the Galaxy pops off the screen. It's available in 3D.

OTHERS TO SEE


Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo team up in the comedy, drama, musical BEGIN AGAIN which tells the story of a chance encounter between a disgraced music-business executive and a young singer-songwriter new to Manhattan which turns into a promising collaboration between the two talents. The director/writer, John Carney, produced a hit with the movie ONCE. It doesn't sound as though this one is quite as good although the general viewer seems to be rating it reasonably high. According to Mick LaSalle, of the San Francisco Chronicle, The music is hit-and-miss, and the movie sinks into as many cliches as it avoids. But the characters are appealing, and the storytelling is just unconventional enough to keep an audience guessing. Might be ok.

ONE TO AVOID


In AND SO IT GOES a self-absorbed realtor enlists the help of his neighbor when he's suddenly left in charge of the granddaughter he never knew existed until his estranged son drops her off at his home. With Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton leading the cast, you'd think we might get a good comedy drama romance. Not so. Ratings are very low indeed. The Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips warns us that The slapstick is awful; the pathos isn't much better, though it's far more plentiful. Give this one a wide berth.

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

NB: synopses of movies are adapted from IMDB. Opinions are mine unless quoted from cited sources.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

A MOST WANTED MAN

A Chechen Muslim illegally immigrates to Hamburg, where he gets caught in the international war on terror.

I've seen this movie twice, now, and loved it both times. Philip Seymour Hoffman is brilliant in his last movie role. The rest of the cast is also excellent in this slow-burn spy thriller based on a John La Carre novel. The plot is very contemporary with dialogue that is witty and spare. It's the sort of movie you need to watch carefully and quietly so you can concentrate on the various characters and their relationships. Even though it runs at just over two hours, it is never boring with characters developed carefully and a complex plot that unfolds slowly enough to think about what is happening. The German accents were very well done and seemed completely natural. The ambiguous ethical dilemmas are provocative and refuse to lend themselves to black-and-white analysis. For me, an almost perfect spy movie - diminished, just slightly, by a couple of cliched behaviours on the part of the spies. Very satisfying, indeed!

****1/2

Sunday, 3 August 2014

LUCY

A woman, accidentally caught in a dark deal, turns the tables on her captors and transforms into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic.

Love this movie! Scarlett Johansson is perfectly cast in this full-on action, sci-fi thriller. Great premise and fits a lot into 90 minutes! A few plot holes but who cares when the entertainment is so deliriously good. From the opening scene, Johansson dominates the screen - this is her movie. Gets pretty bizarre at the end but it's riveting stuff. It's even funny at times so it doesn't take itself too seriously. You'll only need 3-5% of your brain to enjoy this - so go for the ride!

****1/2

 

 

Friday, 1 August 2014

FRACTURED ANGEL


Fractured Angel
by Ken Williams
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: How would you go about trying to help your daughter who, suffering her first psychotic break at fifteen, is chased by her wounded mind to the streets of Santa Barbara? That is the dilemma that Lynne Swanson faces. Out of her element, and definitely out of her comfort zone for this professional woman, she is forced to seek the help of Kerry Wilson, a social worker for the homeless. Unfortunately for her, Kerry is a rough-necked loner that has no inclination to hold the hand of a woman who he feels is out for a lark at the expense of his homeless clients. The harsh and deadly realities of the streets in one of the wealthiest cities in the world and an attempt to close a homeless shelter just as winter sets in produces a dramatic race against time with the life of Lynne’s daughter in the balance.

MY REVIEW: I need to say up front that I only read 15% of this book - so it's not possible for me to say anything about the whole thing. I really wanted to like this one. As you will see from the book description, the premise looks great, it's an important contemporary issue, and the author has personal experience with the issue of homelessness.

But after reading the first few chapters I felt very irritated by the writing style. It felt like the author had an agenda - and needed to convince me of what really goes on with the homeless. Now, there's nothing wrong with that agenda. It's just that a good novel shouldn't make me constantly aware of the agenda. Oblique persuasion is always better. The use of language is almost too sophisticated and ingenious for such a raw topic. And things are sometimes explained when the reader should be left to work that out from the story (for example, the daughter hears voices and we're told, parenthetically, that these are a symptom of her illness - really!?).

In my opinion, the narrative would have been better told in the first person from the perspective of the mother as she enters into this completely foreign world. As a reader, I should experience, the confusion, disorientation, confrontational nature of cultural shock. Instead, the narrator has a "god's eye view" of everything going on. I'm afraid, it just didn't work for me.

View all my reviews

<< THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES >>

Ok ... off to the cinema this week? Here's what's new...

MY TOP PICK TO SEE


I've been waiting to see my top pick this week - the last movie that Philip Seymour Hoffman acted in before his untimely death. It's A MOST WANTED MAN. A Chechen Muslim illegally immigrates to Hamburg, where he gets caught in the international war on terror. Based on a John Le Carré novel, it should be good. Entertainment Weekly's reviewer says it ’Crackles with a jigsaw-puzzle intelligence and features a superbly subtle lead performance from the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, who single-handedly gooses the post-9/11 procedural through some of its slower patches.’ Can't wait!

OTHERS TO SEE


THE SELFISH GIANT is a contemporary fable about two scrappy 13-year-old working-class friends in the UK who seek fortune by getting involved with a local scrap dealer and criminal, leading to tragic consequences. According to The Playlist’s Jessica Kiang, ’The Selfish Giant preaches compassion by showing us in its very closing moments, the fathomless goodness that can lie beneath even the spittingest, snarlingest exterior.’

If you're into Scandinavian crime (and who isn't!), you must check out THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES about police inspector Carl Mørck who is put in charge of a department of cold cases, joined only by his assistant, Assad. They dig into a case about a disappeared woman. I saw this recently at the Scandinavian film festival here in Adelaide and will provide my review shortly. I really enjoyed it.

Back to Australia - and THESE FINAL HOURS arrives in general release. A self-obsessed young man makes his way to the party-to-end-all-parties on the last day on Earth, but ends up saving the life of a little girl searching for her father. Their relationship ultimately leads him on the path to redemption. Another one I have seen - at the Adelaide Film Festival back a while. It's a 5-star movie for me and I'll repost my review soon.

I'm a big fan of Scarlett Johansson and she returns to our screens this week as LUCY. Lucy is a woman, accidentally caught in a dark deal, who turns the tables on her captors and transforms into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic. I'm catching this on Sunday morning so will let you know more about it then. The Guardian reckons ’The end of the movie goes completely off the rails, but in a way that is charming in its stupidity.’ We'll see!

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


Stanley Tucci stars as a man who surprises his former mistress (Alice Eve), claiming to have left his wife in SOME VELVET MORNING. Before too long, a dark history between the two has come into focus. For NPR’s Ella Taylor, ’Like most of LaBute's work, Some Velvet Morning ends as it begins, more clever than wise.’

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

NB: synopses of movies are adapted from IMDB. Opinions are mine unless quoted from cited sources.