Wednesday, 31 December 2014

NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Two new movie releases this week and the first for this year!

TOP PICK


Top pick this week is most definitely THE IMITATION GAME. You can read my review here.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


THE PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR tells the story of Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private who join forces with undercover organization The North Wind to stop the villainous Dr. Octavius Brine from destroying the world as we know it. PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR has high appeal for the general public, but critics are not quite so happy. For The Hollywood Reporter's Michael Rechtshaffen, While there are plenty of madcap antics to fill a feature, all that manic energy ultimately proves to be more exhausting than exhilarating.

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

* Movie synopses are based on/adapted from IMDB. Opinions are mine except where references are provided.

ST VINCENT

A young boy whose parents have just divorced finds an unlikely friend and mentor in the misanthropic, bawdy, hedonistic war veteran who lives next door. -- IMDB

What a delightful surprise this little movie is. Bill Murray (Vincent) is all Bill Murray - but he plays Bill Murray well and is a joy to watch. Melissa McCarthy's (Maggie) usual over-the-top performance is toned down to a beautifully understated role and shows she has great potential as an actor. Naomi Watts (Daka) clearly has fun with her “lady of the night” role. And newcomer, Jaeden Lieberher, is winsome as Oliver. The story is simple and full of positive values. It’s funny, heart-warming, with genuine humour. I really enjoyed it.


Monday, 29 December 2014

BIG HERO 6

The special bond that develops between plus-sized inflatable robot Baymax, and prodigy Hiro Hamada, who team up with a group of friends to form a band of high-tech heroes. —IMDB

An ok animated feature. Baymax is cute and it is always amazing how animators can make very basic characters express so much depth. The animation is well executed but the plot is pretty standard and, while there are some important issues raised about the relationship between technology and humans, it’s all a bit ho-hum. And there’s lots of violence for a primarily kids film. In my opinion, it’s about time studios started moving away from the superhero genre and becoming creative with their storytelling.


Saturday, 27 December 2014

THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES

Bilbo and Company are forced to engage in a war against an array of combatants and keep the Lonely Mountain from falling into the hands of a rising darkness. IMDB

Well I enjoyed this episode more than any of the others. It was well paced with lots of actions and represented a suitable climax to the series. At times, the CGI wasnt quite right (some of the close combat scenes didnt seem real) but, overall, Peter Jackson shows off the amazing technology that allows us to immerse ourselves in fantasy worlds that would not have been possible just a few years ago. This episode really focuses in on the personal relationships between characters and the heroic loyalty they demonstrate - even if it means dying for friendships. This will definitely satisfy fans of the series.


THE WATER DIVINER

An Australian man travels to Turkey after the Battle of Gallipoli to try and locate his three missing sons. —IMDB

Russell Crowes directorial debut is a solid drama that is, apparently, inspired" by a true story. Its rough around the edges with a couple of serious flaws. Casting Dan Wyllie as Captain Charles Brindley is a very bad choice. Wyllie overacts and gives us a caricatured English accent that just doesnt work. Every time he is on screen, he distracts from the authentic feel of the script. And, for me, the way in which the main character, Connor (played well be Russell Crowe), finds his three sons (using a method subtly connected to water divining) is totally unbelievable and contrived. Apart from that, its an entertaining drama that celebrates the sacrifices of those who are deeply affected by war. Of particular note is Yilmaz Erdogan who puts in an excellent performance as Major Hasan. Supporting cast (except for Wyllie) are strong. All in all, a worthy first director outing for Crowe and a mostly satisfying watch.


MR TURNER

An exploration of the last quarter century of the great, if eccentric, British painter J.M.W. Turner's life. —IMDB

I can understand why critics are giving this movie very high scores - high production values, good acting, nice photography. But, for me, MR TURNER was an absolutely boring 2 hours and 30 minutes. Watching a very unpleasant character communicating by grunting and growling like a pig wallowing in mud, treating women as objects for his own pleasure, spitting on canvases - Mr Turner was repulsive man. My advice is to admire his paintings and know as little as possible about the man. Watching this movie puts you at risk of forever contaminating your admiration for his work.


Wednesday, 24 December 2014

HORRIBLE BOSSES 2

Dale, Kurt and Nick decide to start their own business but things don't go as planned because of a slick investor, prompting the trio to pull off a harebrained and misguided kidnapping scheme. --IMDB

A truly horrible movie. It's puerile, pathetic, offensive (rape jokes are not funny), and all round unfunny (apart from one or two moments). How usually good actors could agree to act in something like this is truly beyond me. With so many good movies to see at the moment, there's absolutely no reason to waste your time on this.



 

 

 

 

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

LOVE, ROSIE

Rosie and Alex have been best friends since they were 5, so they couldn't possibly be right for one another...or could they? When it comes to love, life and making the right choices, these two are their own worst enemies. — IMDB

Heres one for all you romantics. A very enjoyable movie. Cliched but fresh (does that make sense?). The two main actors have good chemistry and are just flawed enough to make their performances and the story believable. Lily Collins (The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones) is particularly outstanding. I was pleasantly surprised with this movie and would be happy to see it again. So, if you're looking for something easy to watch, pleasantly enjoyable, and romantic, you'd better head to the cinema!











Thursday, 18 December 2014

THE IMITATION GAME

English mathematician and logician, Alan Turing, helps crack the Enigma code during World War II. — IMDB

THE IMITATION GAME opens on 1 January 2015 - but I got to see it at a prescreening. Its an excellent true story with Benedict Cumberbatch (Alan Turing) putting in what may be his best performance ever. Cumberbatch dominates the entire narrative in his portrayal of the brilliant man who, with Sherlockian logic and profound eccentricity, manages to break the Enigma code allowing full access to the enemys war plans. The film always provides an insight into the cultural mores of the time around sexuality and gender. Its both an inspiring and tragic story - even if, ultimately, it doesnt quite have the impact one would expect of such a story. It is definitely worth seeing and I have been inspired to follow up by reading the biography of the genius, Alan Turing, on which the film is based.


NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - 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. — IMDB

PREDESTINATION is 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. Try to see it without knowing anything much about it... One of the best sci-fi movies this year!


NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Clearly, cinemas are holding on to their new releases for Boxing Day. There is just one new release and it is ...


ONE TO AVOID


This third movie adaptation of ANNIE is a real bummer according to those who have seen it so far. You probably know the story. A foster kid, who lives with her mean foster mom, sees her life change when business tycoon and New York mayoral candidate Will Stacks makes a thinly-veiled campaign move and takes her in. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the consensus is, The new-look Annie hints at a progressive take on a well-worn story, but smothers its likable cast under clich├ęs, cloying cuteness, and a distasteful materialism. Give it a miss!

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

* Movie synopses are based on/adapted from IMDB. Opinions are mine except where references are provided.

Friday, 12 December 2014

PADDINGTON

A young English boy befriends a talking bear he finds at a London train station. A live-action feature based on the series of popular children's books by Michael Bond. — IMDB

Moving popular children’s characters to the screen is always risky. And some of them have been downright distasteful. But PADDINGTON is excellent. The best family film this year (and maybe next). An absolute delight with surprisingly clever visual innovations, a great cast, and an excellent backstory. The animation of PADDINGTON is brilliant - just how I imagined him to look. And the casting of Ben Wishaw as the voice of Paddington is spot on. Even Nicole Kidman puts in a good turn as the nasty taxidermist who wants to stuff Paddington - it would have been good to have her character more central to the story. Thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining. Simple, charming, and full of fun. Make sure you see it - and take the whole family!





Thursday, 11 December 2014

NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - THESE FINAL HOURS

THESE FINAL HOURS - 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. — IMDB

One of the best end-of-the-world movies I've ever seen! It packs a real emotional punch. I saw it at the Adelaide Film Festival and there was complete silence as the credits started to roll. What makes this new Australian movie so good is its focus on real people and how they might choose to use their last remaining hours alive. We see these final events through the eyes of an adult and a child (played by Nathan Philips and brilliant newcomer child-actor Angourie Rice). It's a deeply humanising script that stares in the face of finality without flinching. The movie is painted on a large apocalyptic canvas that recedes into the background as our attention is focused where it should be - on real people and their relationships. The movie grapples with universal issues of life and death, love, meaning and what we value when everything is about to cease existing. Very thought-provoking and emotionally moving. Make sure you see!


NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Very slim pickings as far as new movies go this week.

TOP PICK


Top of the list is, of course PADDINGTON! A young English boy befriends a talking bear he finds at a London train station. A live-action feature based on the series of popular children's books by Michael Bond. Who wouldn’t want to see this! Even more so if CineVue's Joe Walsh is correct. According to him, PADDINGTON is Devoid of cash-in cynicism, and full of belly-shaking humour[.] Paddington proves to be not just a wonderful contemporary rendition of the bear, but a polite hat-tip to the man who created him, paying homage in the best way possible: by bringing a gentle, slightly reserved, smile to audience faces. Who’s going to go see it?

OTHERS TO SEE


In the French comedy, PARIS FOLLIES, Brigitte and Xavier are a couple of cattle farmers living and working together in Normandy. They have always got on well but now that their two children have left the household routine and weariness have set in. One night, Brigitte, who has been invited to a party by a group of Parisians in the house next to their farm, lets herself be wooed by Stan, a witty, cool attractive young man. Some time later, giving a visit to a dermatologist as an excuse, she goes to Paris to meet him. But things do not go according to plan… - Written by Guy Bellinger

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


Finally, one that general viewers and critics disagree on - HORRIBLE BOSSES 2. Dale, Kurt and Nick decide to start their own business but things don't go as planned because of a slick investor, prompting the trio to pull off a harebrained and misguided kidnapping scheme. According to Variety's Justin Chang, This inane and incredibly tasteless sequel qualifies as an excuse to bring back those hard-working funnymen Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis for another round of amateur-criminal hijinks and semi-improvised vulgarity, jabbing away repeatedly at some elusive comic sweet spot where blatant nastiness and egregious stupidity collide - and very occasionally hitting the mark. Wow! I guess this critic didn’t like it! I’ve heard from some who have seen it, that it is better than the first one. We’ll have to see...

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

* Movie synopses are based on/adapted from IMDB. Opinions are mine except where references are provided.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

TURKEY SHOOT

 In the wake of a shocking civilian massacre in a foreign war zone, disgraced Navy SEAL Rick Tyler is sentenced to rot in a maximum security military prison until he is offered the opportunity to put his life on the line to win his freedom. A one-man force of nature, Tyler will have to take-on and take-down some of the world's most ruthless killers in some of the world's most brutal locations to win the game, obtain his freedom and find out why he was set up. The question is, can he accomplish all of this before Game On is Game Over? -- IMDB

This is a turkey of a movie. The sound track (including dialogue) is out of sync with the visuals, acting is low quality, the story has potential but is ultimately superficial. The whole thing is pretty bad. Give it a miss.


Monday, 8 December 2014

ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY

Alexander's day begins with gum stuck in his hair, followed by more calamities. Though he finds little sympathy from his family and begins to wonder if bad things only happen to him, his mom, dad, brother, and sister all find themselves living through their own terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. -- IMDB

Despite the critics being down on this little movie, I quite enjoyed it. It's a great family film - and devoid of sex, farts, and other gutter human often found in much comedy nowadays. (There is a bit of rude humour including some reckless behaviour and language.) Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner, as husband and wife, make a great pair. The kids put in some solid supporting roles. And there's a good message. The similarity to the movie LIAR LIAR has been noted, but the differences are great enough for me to not make that connection myself. I recommend this for a family outing.


Sunday, 7 December 2014

EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS


The defiant leader Moses rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses, setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues. -- IMDB

Perhaps the most disappointing film of the year. For an accomplished director, Ridley Scott has produced a real lemon. Apart from the special effects, just about everything is wrong. The casting doesn't work. It's as if it's a high school production where everyone has to have a part. There's plenty of well known actors but the casting decisions grate on the nerves. It just doesn't work. The worst decision is the casting of a precocious child to play the part of the Hebrew god. Really?! And it's boring! There is a complete absence of any dramatic tension. The original Hebrew legend is shot through with drama, spiritual significance, human frailty, political intrigue and confrontation. Most of this is missing and what is there is bland and insignificant. For example, the original story has Moses confronting the Egyptian magicians in repeated tests to prove who has the strongest god. Is that in the movie? Nope. The original has Moses with a stutter that prohibits him from having confidence in his ability to confront Pharaoh. In the movie? No. Each of the plagues are the result of confrontations between Moses and Pharaoh. In the movie? Nope. We have a purely naturalistic, logical development which, in the original legend, was a potent retribution from a god who was furious with the way his people were being treated. All in all, this movie is a pathetic retelling of a famous Hebrew legend in which Jewish identity is grounded. I really appreciate the retelling of stories such as this which push the boundaries, are controversial, and force us to think. But this? It’s nowhere near as good as the original story. Don’t waste your money.


Friday, 5 December 2014

NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION

LUCY has arrived in your home! A woman is 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!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

MY OLD LADY

An American inherits an apartment in Paris that comes with an unexpected resident.
MY OLD LADY is billed as a comedy drama. It is more drama than comedy. And what comedy there is, is dark. It starts of very pleasantly, set in Paris, and we think we're in for a lighthearted fast paced amusing story. But it's not long before it turns to some very serious themes: unresolved grief, parent-child relationships, ageing, self-esteem. The director is the author of the stage play on which it is based, and wrote the screenplay for the movie. At times, the dialogue comes across as a bit stagey and we know the actors are “acting”. But fortunately, these big name cast act well enough to make the journey ok.