Friday, 31 October 2014

THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

The painful thing about the new movies this week is that I'm in Indonesia until next Tuesday and won't be able to see any of these until then! But here they are anyway ;-)

MY TOP PICK TO SEE


Top pick to see this week is most definitely the comedy drama - based on a true story - PRIDE. If you've seen the trailers you'll be anxious to see what looks to be an excellent movie. In this story, U.K. gay activists work to help miners during their lengthy strike of the National Union of Mineworkers in the summer of 1984. Stars a host of well known British actors, including Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, and Dominic West. According to Total Film’s Neil Smith, it’s A feel-good charmer with an important message[.] Pride will have you clutching your sides, wiping your eyes and punching the air in triumph.

OTHERS TO SEE


JOHN WICK looks interesting - despite the rather lacklustre title. Keanu Reeves plays an ex-hitman who comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that took everything from him. Sounds cliched? Variety’s Peter Debruge says, If you can stomach the setup, then the rest is pure revenge-movie gold, as Reeves reminds what a compelling action star he can be, while the guy who served as his stunt double in “The Matrix” makes a remarkably satisfying directorial debut, delivering a clean, efficient and incredibly assured thriller. Maybe worth a look.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


KILL THE MESSENGER is a biography crime drama about a reporter who becomes the target of a vicious smear campaign that drives him to the point of suicide after he exposes the CIA's role in arming Contra rebels in Nicaragua and importing cocaine into California. Based on the true story of journalist Gary Webb. Mixed reviews on this one with the general viewer rating slightly higher than the critics. According to The Guardian’s Jordan Hoffman, It's a great story that lends itself to some striking scenes. Yet the film in total - if I may paraphrase Webb's critics - has a number of holes. It’s a shame because the story seems pretty interesting.

A French action adventure drama, the French name of which I won’t attempt to write, but which in English is THE YOUNG AND PRODIGIOUS T S SPIVET is all about a ten-year-old cartographer who secretly leaves his family's ranch in Montana where he lives with his cowboy father and scientist mother and travels across the country aboard a freight train to receive an award at the Smithsonian Institute. Sounds different. Critics are not happy overall, one of whom says it’s Like one of its animated 3D asides, the film jumps out at you, twiddles around and then folds itself away into nowhere. It's all pop-up, no book. (The Telegraph: Robbie Collin)

Finally, a drama romance - THE BEST OF ME. A pair of former high school sweethearts reunite after many years when they return to visit their small hometown. Hmm… sounds riveting (not)! TheWrap’s James Rocchi is scathing: The bad news is that no matter how charming or fizzy the chemistry between the actors might be, they're still trapped in the dead, fake melodrama and brainless coincidences of a Nicholas Sparks story. General public like it a bit better - but not by much.

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.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

FURY (2014)

April, 1945. As the Allies make their final push in the European Theatre, a battle-hardened army sergeant named Wardaddy commands a Sherman tank and her five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Out-numbered, out-gunned, and with a rookie soldier thrust into their platoon, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds in their heroic attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany. -- IMDB


An outstanding, confronting war movie that approaches the subject with fresh eyes. The story is intense and claustrophobic with a lot of the action taking place inside the cramped confines of a tank. The script is tight and complex and putting a young, inexperienced soldier into a tight-knit fighting unit that's been together for many campaigns is a stroke of brilliance. In the middle of the terror and death of war, men develop deep friendships that help them cope with the horror. FURY portrays both of these dimensions of war in a compelling drama. There is nothing sanitised in this movie. The violence is raw and honest and is interspersed with moments of tense calm. The performances are excellent and Brad Pitt's Don ’WarDaddy' Collier is superbly understated. This is not an easy movie to watch and, yet, it's impossible to turn away. There's a real sense that we are watching the true horror of war and the struggle that ordinary men experience as they fight for emotional survival. It's one of the best war films I've seen.

****

 

 

Friday, 24 October 2014

THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

A reasonable selection of new movies this week.

MY TOP PICK TO SEE


I’m really looking forward to WHIPLASH, my top pick to see this week. A promising young drummer enrolls at a cutthroat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student's potential. Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers, tells us to, Beat the drums for a Simmons Oscar, and add a cymbal crash for Whiplash. It's electrifying. The trailers look excellent!


OTHERS TO SEE


FURY is definitely worth seeing. April, 1945. As the Allies make their final push in the European Theatre, a battle-hardened army sergeant named Wardaddy commands a Sherman tank and her five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Out-numbered, out-gunned, and with a rookie soldier thrust into their platoon, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds in their heroic attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw describes Fury as … a punchy, muscular action film, confidently put together and never anything other than watchable. Watch out for my review coming soon.

For those of you wanting a little comedy drama, check out the Spanish LIVING IS EASY WITH EYES CLOSED. Spain, 1966, a high-school English/Latin teacher, Antonio, drives to Almeria in hopes of meeting his hero, John Lennon. Along the way, Antonio picks up two runaways. The movie title, Living is Easy With Eyes Closed, comes from a line in Lennon's song Strawberry Fields Forever which he wrote while filming How I Won the War in Almeria.’ - Written by af_by94 on IMDB

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


Finally, another comedy drama - this time from America. When their father passes away, four grown siblings are forced to return to their childhood home and live under the same roof together for a week, along with their over-sharing mother and an assortment of spouses, exes and might-have-beens. The Guardian’s Catherine Shoard doesn’t like this one. For her, This is Where I Leave You is totally aimble [sic], utterly unmoving filler given a major shot in the arm by its cast, people it's simply a pleasure to watch, even with the creeping feeling they're better than this. The general viewer is rating this a bit better at around three stars. If you see it, let us know what you think.

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, 22 October 2014

SON OF A GUN

Locked up for a minor crime, 19 year old JR quickly learns the harsh realities of prison life. Protection, if you can get it, is paramount. JR soon finds himself under the watchful eye of Australia's most notorious criminal, Brendan Lynch. But protection comes at a price. Lynch and his crew have plans for their young protegee. Upon release, JR must help secure Lynch's freedom, staging a daring prison break. As a reward, he's invited to join the crew as they plan a gold heist that promises to deliver millions. However, as things start to go wrong, a deadly game of cat and mouse ensues. JR finds himself unsure of whom he can trust and on a collision course with his former mentor. -- IMDB

Surprisingly good! A mature Australian crime thriller that is entertaining, well-paced, and well-acted by the two main stars and supporting cast. Ewan McGregor (playing Brendan Lynch) has a powerful screen presence and Brendan Thwaites does a great job of playing the 19 year old JR. At the heart of the action is a sensitive portrayal of father-son relationships as Lynch and Thwaites compensate for each of their father/son absences in their lives. I really enjoyed this - an easy-to-watch, linear plot that is solid and straightforward. Don't miss it.

****

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

FORCE MAJEURE (TURIST)

A family on a ski holiday in the French Alps find themselves staring down an avalanche during lunch one day; in the aftermath, their dynamic has been shaken to its core, with a question mark hanging over their patriarch in particular. — IMDB

A very intriguing psychological study of gender roles, family loyalty, and the bonds that hold families together. While it is a very gentle film, even low points in the movie are deeply engaging as the physical environment is used to great effect along with the nuanced performances. The child actors are also good, demonstrating the potent effects adult emotions can have on children. This is truly an intelligent, adult film. A touch long, perhaps, but the acting is superb as the two main protagonists take us on their internal emotional journeys. If you are looking for something profound and provocative, take a look at this one.

****1/2

Thursday, 16 October 2014

THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Ready to head off to the cinema for some new movies this week?

MY TOP PICK TO SEE
Top movie this week (which isn’t saying much!), is A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES starring the dependable Liam Neeson. Private investigator Matthew Scudder is hired by a drug kingpin to find out who kidnapped and murdered his wife. Total Film’s Matt Glasby say it’s Exciting, in places, though a stranger to subtlety, it ticks all the genre boxes, but there's something about its knowing noirisms that feels superficial rather than soaked-in. So it doesn’t look great but will probably be entertaining.

OTHERS TO SEE
The Chinese biography, drama, romance tells the life story of Xiao Hong, one of China's most famous essayists and novelists, who reflected the progressive thinking not frequently seen during the 1930s.

Another Australian action, crime, drama hits our screen. SON OF A GUN tells the story of 19 year old JR who is locked up for a minor crime, and quickly learns the harsh realities of prison life. Protection, if you can get it, is paramount. JR soon finds himself under the watchful eye of Australia's most notorious criminal, Brendan Lynch. But protection comes at a price. Lynch and his crew have plans for their young protegee. Upon release, JR must help secure Lynch's freedom, staging a daring prison break. As a reward, he's invited to join the crew as they plan a gold heist that promises to deliver millions. However, as things start to go wrong, a deadly game of cat and mouse ensues. JR finds himself unsure of whom he can trust and on a collision course with his former mentor. Sounds good!

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT
The trailers for BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP looked quite intriguing. A woman wakes up every day, remembering nothing as a result of a traumatic accident in her past. One day, new terrifying truths emerge that force her to question everyone around her. The general public are rating it as average, but the critics are not quite that positive. According to The Guardian’s Henry Barnes, It aims for sexy and/or dangerous, but the tone is dry and the pace lags.

ONE TO AVOID
One definite movie to avoid this week is TAMMY starring Melissa McCarthy and Sarah Sarandon. After losing her job and learning that her husband has been unfaithful, a woman hits the road with her profane, hard-drinking grandmother. General viewers and critics agree on this one - it's not good. USA Today’s Claudia Puig says it all: Where 1991's "Thelma & Louise" was funny and action-filled, Tammy's story is thin, cringe-inducing and, worst of all for a comedy, not funny. Jokes land with a thud and the pacing is leaden.mDon't bother!

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.

 

Saturday, 11 October 2014

SIDDHARTH

A chain-wallah from Delhi travels across India in search of his missing son, in the hopes that whoever took him, returns him unharmed.

A gentle, but penetrating look, at child kidnapping for child labour in India. The story unfolds without excess as one family - a father, mother and daughter - struggle to come to terms with their missing family member and the absolute frustration that comes with a sense of powerlessness. SIDDHARTH is beautifully filmed with surprising insights into Indian culture and society. A mature, passionate movie that allows the viewer to enter into the story in an almost meditative way. Felt a little long at times but, overall, very rewarding with a very strong finale.

***1/2

THE JUDGE

Big city lawyer Hank Palmer returns to his childhood home where his father, the town's judge, is suspected of murder. Hank sets out to discover the truth and, along the way, reconnects with his estranged family.

THE JUDGE packs just about every soap opera cliche into its very long 2 hours 20 minutes running time - death from cancer, illegitimate children, family power struggles, marriage tensions, possible incest, father-son bickering, car accidents leading to permanent disabilities, regret - it goes on and on. If this was all the movie was it would be completely worthless to watch. The whole story plays itself out like a midday TV movie (I suspect it may turn up on television as a two-part miniseries) with viewer emotions being overtly manipulated as if we are on a roller coaster. Fortunately, it has two very good actors that manage to lift this movie to something quite watchable. Robert Duvall plays Joseph Palmer in a powerful, intense, and commanding role as the small town judge. And Robert Downey Jr, as the estranged son, Hank Palmer, who has to return home and deal with his father’s being charged with murder, is charismatic and witty, as he navigates the family and town’s oppressive politics. It is these two actors performances that make a trip to the cinema worth the effort. But don’t expect sophisticated cinema - just a web of cliche raised to average by two excellent performances.

***

Friday, 10 October 2014

DVD RECOMMENDATION - EDGE OF TOMORROW

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

EDGE OF TOMORROW

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

Thursday, 9 October 2014

THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Just four new movies opening this week in cinemas…

MY TOP PICK TO SEE


Top of the list to see this week is an Indian movie, SIDDHARTH, in which a chain-wallah from Delhi travels across India in search of his missing son, in the hopes that whoever took him, returns him unharmed. According to Village Voice’s Alan Scherstuhl, The photography fascinates even when the story flags, and the film bristles with small revelations. Watch for my review soon.

OTHERS TO SEE


MY CORNERSTONE, a new Australian comedy, drama, romance tells the story of a young Indian nurse who moves to Sydney where she's placed in the household of a wealthy Indian-Australian family and given the task of caring for an elderly lady. Don’t know much about this one but will let you know what it is like once I have seen it.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


THE JUDGE, starring two great performers. Big city lawyer Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr) returns to his childhood home where his father, the town's judge (Robert Duvall), is suspected of murder. Hank sets out to discover the truth and, along the way, reconnects with his estranged family. Critics and general public are divided on this one. The Guardian Catherine Shoard, for example, says that The Judge is a timeless film, in that it could have been made at almost any point over the past 80 years: rote plot, functional support, well-signalled twists. It's a two-seater star vehicle offering little legroom for other passengers. I don’t think it is quite that bad - watch out for my review coming soon.

Finally, there’s TUSK. It’s a comedy, drama, horror. When podcaster Wallace Bryton goes missing in the backwoods of Manitoba while interviewing a mysterious seafarer named Howard Howe, his best friend Teddy and girlfriend Allison team with an ex-cop to look for him. If Film.com’s Kate Erbland is correct, Tusk is revolting, but that's entirely the point of Kevin Smith's admirably imaginative and utterly disgusting latest feature, a twisted fairy tale that trades on gross-out gags and visual shockers instead of actual story. Not sure about this one - may depend on whether you like to grossed out or not!

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, 8 October 2014

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES

When a kingpin threatens New York, A news reporter find a quad of mutants which makes an alliance to unravel Shredder's plan as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. -- IMDB

Pretty much what I expected. Very cliched plot, superficial character development, insufficient humour, very average acting. Megan Fox is on screen the majority of the time - good to look at and does an adequate job - but that’s about it. Plenty of action, especially one scene of a chase down a snow-covered mountain, and mercifully short.

**1/2

Monday, 6 October 2014

THE SKELETON TWINS

Having both coincidentally cheated death on the same day, estranged twins reunite with the possibility of mending their relationship. -- IMDB

Maggie (Kristen Wiig) and Milo (Bill Hader) haven't seen each for a decade. While Maggie is attempting suicide by swallowing a handful of pills, she is interrupted by a phone call telling her of Milo being admitted to hospital following his suicide attempt. Maggie heads off to the hospital where the twins reestablish their relationship with all the challenges that brings. I've only ever seen Kristen Wiig in comedy until now. In this drama, shot through with some profound humour, she is excellent. So is Bill Hader. Together, they perform roles that are funny, tender, provocative and moving. What a delightfully thoughtful movie! Covers familiar ground but the performances of the two stars make this story fresh and engaging.

****

 

Sunday, 5 October 2014

DRACULA UNTOLD

Facing threats to his kingdom and his family, Vlad Tepes looks to make a deal with dangerous supernatural forces - without succumbing to the darkness himself. -- IMDB


The best thing about this movie is the special effects - which are quite stunning. The story covers the age old ground of sacrifice of oneself for the greater good. It's an adequate origin story - we find out how Dracula became a vampire. There's lots of action, violence, and blood. The most interesting character is the Master Vampire, powerfully played by Charles Dance. Unfortunately, he doesn't have enough screen time. If you're into vampires, check it out for some no frills entertainment.

***1/2

 

 

Friday, 3 October 2014

GONE GIRL

On the occasion of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne reports that his wife, Amy, has gone missing. Under pressure from the police and a growing media frenzy, Nick's portrait of a blissful union begins to crumble. Soon his lies, deceits and strange behavior have everyone asking the same dark question: Did Nick Dunne kill his wife?
Written by Twentieth Century Fox -- IMDb

I put GONE GIRL at the top of my watch list this week. And, indeed, it is probably the best on offer of the new releases. But it's definitely not a great movie. I'm a bit surprised that so many movie critics are raving about it. In my opinion, it's pretty average. It feels like a well made tele-movie one might watch from a sick bed at midday.

The premise for GONE GIRL is quite clever. But the script lacks all subtlety - Gillian Flynn, the author of the book on which the movie is based, is also responsible for the screenplay. This may be the problem. Sometimes authors of books are too protective of their work to be able to transform their stories to a new medium. There are scenes in GONE GIRL that may very well work in the novel. But, on screen, they come across as completely overdone, ridiculous and unbelievable.

Character development is shallow, the most interesting characters being the female detective and Affleck's sister. Affleck and ??? were unconvincing and the movie felt like the length it was - well over two hours. Emotionally, it fails to engage. I felt as though I was an observer of the unfolding events rather than feeling involved. 

Overall, a disappointing movie.

*** 

Thursday, 2 October 2014

THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Just four new movies opening this week in cinemas…

MY TOP PICK TO SEE


Top of the bunch is the long awaited GONE GIRL. Based on the best-selling novel by Gillian Flynn. With his wife's disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it's suspected that he may not be innocent. According to Empire: Stylish, twisted and daring, Gone Girl is a David Fincher date movie: dark, smart and dangerous. If it doesn't deliver in its finale, its twist, turns and commitment to moral repugnance will leave you reeling. I’ve seen it and I don’t think it’s quite that good… but I’ll post my review soon.

OTHERS TO SEE


DRACULA UNTOLD is an origin story about how Dracula becomes a vampire. Facing threats to his kingdom and his family, Vlad Tepes looks to make a deal with dangerous supernatural forces - without succumbing to the darkness himself. Watch out for my review soon.

Tackling the subject of ageing, ADVANCED STYLE examines the lives of seven unique New Yorkers whose eclectic personal style and vital spirit have guided their approach to aging. In the opinion of Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw, It doesn't reflect too deeply on age and aging, doesn't dwell on the sadder and complicated side of things, and perhaps gravitates towards self-conscious eccentricity, but it's affectionate and watchable enough.

For horror fans, there’s ANNABELLE. A couple begin to experience terrifying supernatural occurrences involving a vintage doll shortly after their home is invaded by satanic cultists. Definitely not my cup of tea… so if you see it, let everyone know what you think.

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, 1 October 2014

THE LITTLE DEATH

The Little Death is a truly original comedy about sex, love, relationships and taboo. In a multi story narrative, we peer behind the closed doors of a seemingly normal suburban street. A woman with a dangerous fantasy and her partners struggle to please her. A man who begins an affair with his own wife without her knowing anything about it. A couple struggling to keep things together after a sexual experiment spins out of control. A woman who can only find pleasure in her husband's pain. A call centre operator caught in the middle of a dirty and chaotic phone call. And the distractingly charming new neighbour who connects them all. The little Death explores why do we want what we want? How far will we go to get it? What are the consequences of that fleeting moment of sexual ecstasy? -- IMDB

Quite clever and original, The Little Death (a translation of the French phrase, le petit morte, a euphemism for orgasm)  doesn't completely achieve what it sets out to do. Some of the stories are very funny, and others are overdone. The conclusion, which tries to tie everything together is not entirely satisfying. Manages to explore explicit subjects without being gratuitous and with minimal skin being shown. The concepts are very adult and occasionally very controversial, particularly one of the women's fantasy of being raped. While the parts are greater than the sum of the whole, it's worth a look by mature audiences when it arrives on DVD. 

***1/2