Thursday, 29 January 2015

THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING

The relationship between the famous physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife. -- IMDB

This is a beautiful, inspiring story. Gently told with an Oscar-worthy, totally believable, performance from Eddie Redmayne (Les Miserables) as Stephen Hawking and well supported by Felicity Jones as his wife, Jane. The movie spans the time from his university days when the initial signs of his motor neurone disease appeared until the present day. Stephen Hawking is a remarkable man with a witty sense of humour and this movie does justice to him and the support he has received from all those around him. Fortunately, for most of us, the movie doesn't spend too much time on the scientific theories of Hawking (this may disappoint those who are interested in that aspect of the story) but remains focused on the relationship between Hawking and his first wife. Don't miss this one!


NEW CINEMA RELEASES

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

TOP PICK


Top pick to see this week is THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING. The relationship between the famous physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife. I've seen it and it's a great movie! I will post my review soon.

OTHERS TO SEE


 STILL ALICE is a moving story or Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children and a renowned linguistics professor who starts to forget words. When she receives a devastating diagnosis, Alice and her family find their bonds tested. I've seen this one, too... another excellent movie. Review will be posted shortly.

The long-awaited FOXCATCHER opens this week. Another true story about the greatest Olympic Wrestling Champion brother team that joins Team Foxcatcher led by multimillionaire sponsor John E. du Pont as they train for the 1988 games in Seoul - a union that leads to unlikely circumstances. According to HitFix, FOXCATHER is A sinuous, methodical true-crime drama in which the moral and psychological rot sets in long before any crime is committed.

TO AVOID


One to avoid this week: Johnny Depp in MORTDECAI. Juggling angry Russians, the British Mi5, and an international terrorist, debonair art dealer and part time rogue Charlie Mortdecai races to recover a stolen painting rumored to contain a code that leads to lost Nazi gold. The plot summary sounds great but it's not a good movie! Variety's Guy Lodge suggests There's a fatal shortage of zingers to supplement its exhausting zaniness. 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.

DUMB AND DUMBER TO

I'll admit I had a few laughs through this movie. I haven't seen the first DUMB AND DUMBER movie, but that was not a disadvantage. The plot was reasonable and Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels are suitably silly for the genre. A lot of the gags, though, just aren't funny. It's all pretty mild stuff compared to most contemporary comedy. If, like me, you are dumb enough to want to see this, wait for the video! ;-)



Tuesday, 27 January 2015

THE INTERVIEW

Dave Skylark and producer Aaron Rapoport run the celebrity tabloid show "Skylark Tonight." When they land an interview with a surprise fan, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, they are recruited by the CIA to turn their trip to Pyongyang into an assassination mission. --IMDB

At the heart of this movie there is the potential for clever satire. The problem is that the script writers can't resist wrapping it in excessively crude humour (which is not funny). It's a shame, because a better writer could have done something with Seth Rogen's story idea. I suppose we shouldn't expect much from Rogen as all his movies seem to be pretty much the same style. There are a few funny moments but, overall, the movie doesn't live up to the hype it has received as a result of the media attention following the cyber-hack on Sony. Give it a miss unless you really must see what everyone is talking about. It is available on a number of video on demand services and is being released in various cinemas.


Thursday, 22 January 2015

WILD

A chronicle of Cheryl Strayed’s 1,100-mile solo hike undertaken as a way to recover from a recent catastrophe. —IMDB

Reese Witherspoon’s branching into new territory results in an average movie. Witherspoon is pretty brave in her role (she did all her own walking and some tough scenes), although the director apparently covered all the mirrors during shooting so she couldn’t see herself. Sort of ironic given that the journey she is acting in is one of self-discovery! The scenery is beautiful but the cinematography, in my opinion, didn’t capture the isolation that Cheryl Strayed must have experienced. The continual flashbacks to the life Strayed left interfere with the mood and prevented the director from sustaining the sense of loneliness and isolation of the walk. The events that occur to Strayed on the journey, as represented in the movie are pretty trivial - avoiding a snake, losing shoes, etc.  She's constantly running into people who help her. There are some tense moments but the movie, overall, makes the whole thing look just a bit too easy. There is also constant narration of Slayed’s thoughts which becomes irritating after a while. The whole thing feels too contrived and neat. Compared to movies like TRACKS, another true story of a woman who walked 1,700 miles across the deserts of Western Australia, WILD just doesn’t make it. (I recommend TRACKS to anyone who is interested in walking journeys.)


NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - FURY


The excellent war movie, FURY, is now available on DVD which needs to go on your weekend movie watching list.

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 his 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.

****1/2

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

AMERICAN SNIPER

Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle's pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and turns him into a legend. Back home to his wife and kids after four tours of duty, however, Chris finds that it is the war he can't leave behind. — IMDB

AMERICAN SNIPER is an excellent movie from director Clint Eastwood (who is 84!). Based on the true story of America’s most accomplished sniper, Chris Kyle (who died only last year), who we follow to Iraq for four tours of duty interspersed with his returns home. During his periods at home, we witness the lasting impact of war on his mental health and his relationship with his wife - and the desperation to get back to active combat where he feels most at home. What makes this such a good movie is that it doesn’t seem to have a political agenda. It shows the complex nature of wartime experience with incredible intensity. Bradley Cooper is outstanding as Chris Kyle in a career-defining performance. The scenes in war torn Iraq are confidently directed without sensationalism. It’s a sad and brutal story (there is a large amount of strong and disturbing war violence) and deserving of its Oscar nomination for best picture. Don’t miss it on the big screen.




PS: I took off 1/2 a star because of the fake baby used in a couple of scenes which was so obviously fake it ruined the reality of the moment for me! In a movie with this much money spent on it, that shouldn't happen. Don't let this put you off seeing the movie, though!

NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Just three movies opening in cinemas this week, one of which (AMERICAN SNIPER) is nominated for a best picture Oscar.

TOP PICK


So... Top pick to see this week is AMERICAN SNIPER. Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle's pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and turns him into a legend. Back home to his wife and kids after four tours of duty, however, Chris finds that it is the war he can't leave behind. It's directed by Clint Eastwood who usually gives us a good movie. Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook) takes on the starring role, so it will be interesting to see how he manages a more serious character than he has previously. It's also based on a real life subject. New York Observer's Rex Reed praises it for its ...tight, two-fisted direction by Clint Eastwood, and a compelling centerpiece performance by Bradley Cooper.

OTHERS TO SEE


WILD is yet another movie based on a true story (there's been a lot lately!) It's a chronicle of one woman's 1,100-mile solo hike undertaken as a way to recover from a recent catastrophe. The Telegraph's Tim Rosey explains that Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée has followed up one big, awardsy film from last year (Dallas Buyers Club) with another at lightning speed. That was a braver film, but it's the spaciousness of this one that distinguishes it from being just another mechanically pre-ordained adversity narrative. Reece Wotherspoon is apparently excellent in this!

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


THE WEDDING RINGER tells the story of a socially awkward guy who, two weeks shy of his wedding,  enters into a charade by hiring the owner of a company that provides best men for grooms in need. The Hollywood Reporter reviewer describes it this way: A certain derivative, deja-vu quality isn't the only sin this lazy, numbingly routine, very occasionally amusing comedy commits. 

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.

Monday, 19 January 2015

PAPER PLANES

An imaginative children's film about a young Australian boy's passion for flight and his challenge to compete in the World Paper Plane Championships in Japan. — IMDB

What a delight this little movie is! I was very pleasantly surprised. The director wanted to make a movie like the ones he saw when he was a kid - and hes pulled it off. The plot is a bit predictable with a somewhat forced ending, but its a touching story with some great messages for the whole family about grief and father-son relationships. And when is the last time you saw a movie about paper planes? Ex Oxenbould, who plays the young boy obsessed with flight, is outstanding. Theres some great humour and the rural landscapes of Western Australia, where a large proportion of the movie was filmed (also in Tokyo) are beautiful. It’s a charming film that will have your heart soaring.


Saturday, 17 January 2015

UNBROKEN

After a near-fatal plane crash in WWII, Olympian Louis Zamperini spends a harrowing 47 days in a raft with two fellow crewmen before he's caught by the Japanese navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp. —IMDB

A good, clean, straightforward piece of storytelling. Understated in its violence but still conveying the horror of what Louis Zamperini went through. Acting is good on the part of all cast. An inspirational journey with a courageous man. This directorial outing of Angelina Jolies shows that she is good at picking stories that resonate with the deep themes of human existence. It has the feel of an old style movie but lush with contemporary cinematography. A very enjoyable and satisfying movie.



Wednesday, 14 January 2015

BIRDMAN

A washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory. — IMDB

Overrated. I suspect that a large number of people will flock (pun unintended) to see this movie because of all the hype, only to be disappointed. Yes, its technically creative - in particular, the way it uses very long takes to move through the theatre to tell its story. But the attempts to be innovative and creative overshadow any substance the story might have had - and there isnt much of substance. It does explore the desperate need for love and identity - but there is nothing new here and it is mostly pretty boring except for a few moments of intensity. Im not sure why many are raving over Michael Keatons performance - I suppose it is a bit more in-depth to what he usually does. The feeling is that the director is trying really hard to impress us - but he has tried too hard and made the film overly self-conscious. As I was watching it, I was thinking about the movie - but mostly felt nothing. Its all pretty pretentious stuff.

NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Mostly average fare this week at the cinema - except for one outstanding, critically acclaimed one, which is my ...

TOP PICK


Without doubt, the top pick for this week has to be BIRDMAN, starring Michael Keaton (Batman), in which a washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory. Everyone is raving about this movie. According to TheWrap's Alonso Duralde, The director has wisely assembled an ensemble of performers who know how to handle a long take; this will certainly rank among Keaton's career highlights - in a role that allows him to completely dump out his paintbox and show a vast range of emotion - but everyone shines. I’ll post my review as soon as I have seen it.

OTHERS TO SEE


The new Australian family offering, PAPER PLANES, also opens this week. It’s an imaginative children's film about a young Australian boy's passion for flight and his challenge to compete in the World Paper Plane Championships in Japan. Don’t know much about this movie other than that the trailers make it look like a sweet family movie. I’ll let you know what I think soon.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT

(A reminder: the MAYBE/MAYBE NOT category is for movies for which there is disagreement between general public and critics as to whether it is worth seeing)

Surprisingly, the long awaited Angelina Jolie directed UNBROKEN is a maybe/maybe not to watch this week. After a near-fatal plane crash in WWII, Olympian Louis Zamperini spends a harrowing 47 days in a raft with two fellow crewmen before he's caught by the Japanese navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp. It’s based on the true life story of Louis Zamperini. The Guardian's Andrew Pulver says, 
Though high-minded and well-intentioned - as well as being conceived on an epic scale - there's something faintly stodgy and safety-first about the endeavour. Im seeing it tonight so will let you know what I think.



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.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB

Larry spans the globe, uniting favorite and new characters while embarking on an epic quest to save the magic before it is gone forever. —IMDB

Tired and lacklustre. The jokes are just not funny and even the physical humour leaves a lot to be desired. Feels like it has all been done before. Its telling when even the kids in the cinema dont laugh at whats happening on screen - and they didnt in the session I attended. The film is dedicated to Robin Williams and Mickey Rooney - who both appear in the film. Characters of that calibre dont improve what is essentially a boring, more of the same outing.

Monday, 12 January 2015

KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE

A veteran secret agent takes a young upstart under his wing. — IMDB

KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE opens in cinemas on 5 February. I saw it at a pre-screening last night - and what an entertaining experience it is! Combining elements from just about every spy thriller you have seen, and with its tongue firmly in its cheek, its a genuinely clever comedic romp with some very black moments and some on-the-edge-of-your-seat tension. Colin Firth (brilliant!), Michael Caine, and Samuel L Jackson (very funny) are wonderful in their roles. And new-comer Taron Egerton is outstanding as the rough-around-the-edges spy recruit. The plot takes some unexpected turns, theres great action sequences, cool special effects, and - wait for it - a fresh inspirational call to men (in particular) to be gentlemen on the inside and not being bound to their origins or past. Its a great yarn from director Michael Vaughn (Kick-Ass) who was also involved in the writing of the screenplay. KINGSMAN is slick, sophisticated, shockingly funny, dramatic, hyper-violent and pushes the envelope. Went it comes to a cinema near you - go see it!


Thursday, 8 January 2015

INTO THE WOODS

A witch tasks a childless baker and his wife with procuring magical items from classic fairy tales to reverse the curse put on their family tree. —IMDB

In one sense, INTO THE WOODS is quite clever in its attempt to integrate more than four fairy tales into one. I understand it is based on a stage play - and it feels that way at times. Somehow, it doesnt quite hit the mark. I think its the music which, is too similar all the way through. I don’t like it when normal speech is forced into singing. My preference is for songs that are discreet and used sparingly and at the right times rather than almost every word of a script having to be sung. Meryl Streep is pretty good as the witch and supporting cast put in worthy efforts. It’s also uneven - a large proportion of the movie is quite dark but then it seems to lose its way. I would have preferred the whole movie be made for adults and sustain the darkness and ambiguity. Overall, its ok but nothing brilliant. And its definitely not a kids film. The PG rating is earned so Id recommend parents watching the movie before taking the kids - or at least doing some research about it before deciding.



TAKEN 3

Ex-government operative Bryan Mills is accused of a ruthless murder he never committed or witnessed. As he is tracked and pursued, Mills brings out his particular set of skills to find the true killer and clear his name. —IMDB

Its time for this series to stop - in fact, it was time after the second instalment. I believe this is the last in a trilogy - if so, that is good. Sadly, this last one is worse than the previous two. TAKEN 3 has nothing innovative in it and is cliched and predictable. Surely Liam Neeson is embarrassed by this little outing. And theres a desperation in using handheld camera work to try to convince us something exciting is happening. If you must watch it, wait for the DVD.


Wednesday, 7 January 2015

UPDATE: LIFE ITSELF NOT IN CINEMAS - ONLY ON US TV

A quick update about the documentary LIFE ITSELF about the life of Roger Ebert. I thought is was opening in cinemas this week, but have discovered that it is actually only airing on US television this week. Sorry for the misinformation! My top pick for the week will now have to go to INTO THE WOODS! :-)

See you at the movies!

NEW CINEMA RELEASES

A mixed bag opening at the movies this week… but that means something for everyone.

TOP PICK


Top pick for me this week is a documentary of Roger Ebert, one of the most well-known and loved American film critics who died in 2013. LIFE ITSELF tells the story of his life and career. Ill be definitely going to see this one - hesort of a “hero” to me given my interest in film. And if you are interested in the movies, you will want to see this documentary too. According to Rolling Stone's Peter Travers, Don't miss it. Though Life Itself is a warts-and-all portrait Ebert didn't live to review, my guess is his thumbs would be shooting upward. Mine sure are.

OTHERS TO SEE


The adventure comedy fantasy musical hits our screens this week - just in time for the last bit of the school holidays, the PG-rated INTO THE WOODS is all about a witch who tasks a childless baker and his wife with procuring magical items from classic fairy tales to reverse the curse put on their family tree. Responses have been mixed. Variety's Scott Foundas takes a middle ground in his review, suggesting that Marshall [the director] hasn't made one of the great movie musicals here, but he hasn't bungled it either - far from it. And New York Magazine's (Vulture) David Edelstein makes an interesting comment: I'm only half-kidding when I suggest that you see the movie but leave (especially if you have kids) at what's obviously the end of the first act. You'll still get the dissonances, ambiguities, and portents of doom, along with much that is pure enchantment. And you won't leave thinking the movie had been made by the Big Bad Wolf. If you are a parent, youd better take the PG rating seriously.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


Two movies sit firmly in the maybe/maybe not category this week.

First is the next in the Taken series, TAKEN 3 in which we see ex-government operative Bryan Mills accused of a ruthless murder he never committed or witnessed. As he is tracked and pursued, Mills brings out his particular set of skills to find the true killer and clear his name. If you have seen the previous Taken movies, you’ll know what to expect. General viewers seem to like the movie but, as so often, critics do not. Variety's Maggie Lee describes it as A mind-numbing, crash-bang misfire that abandons chic European capitals for the character's own backyard. And The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw, with biting humour, says It's difficult to know what subtitle to give this. Taken 3: Not Again, or Taken 3: Seriously? or Taken 3: This Is Getting a Bit Much Frankly. BUT, general viewers are loving it, giving it around about 4 stars on the average. So you will need to make your mind up about this one. Ill let you know what I think after I have seen it.

Finally, theres DUMB AND DUMBER TO starring Jim Carrey. 20 years since their first adventure, Lloyd and Harry go on a road trip to find Harry's newly discovered daughter, who was given up for adoption. Once again, the general viewer is averaging around 3 stars and critics slamming it. McClatchy-Tribune News Service's Roger Moore says, Truth be told, I was never a fan of the first “Dumber,” but the stars made it endurable and convincingly stupid. Here, they're sometimes funny, and sometimes just sad. They're better than this, no matter how good they are at hiding the fact that they know it. Up to you whether you spend your money on this one!



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.

Monday, 5 January 2015

HUMAN CAPITAL (Il capitale umano)



The destinies of two families are irrevocably tied together after a cyclist is hit off the road by a jeep in the night before Christmas Eve. --IMDB





This Italian drama - with a touch of mystery thriller - was very well done and intriguing. The movie starts out with an accident where someone knocks a man from his bicycle and drives off. We then see the same events leading up to that moment from three different people's perspectives. It's well crafted, tightly scripted, and well-acted. It's an excellent critique of the way society differentiates between the rich and poor and the (de)valuing of people on the basis of their monetary worth.


 

Saturday, 3 January 2015

PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR

Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private join forces with undercover organization The North Wind to stop the villainous Dr. Octavius Brine from destroying the world as we know it. — IMDB

Full on, fast paced, frenetic action. By the time it was finished, I’d had enough. The kids in the cinema loved it - and it is primarily for kids that this movie is made, in my opinion. There are a few subtle jokes for the adults, but not really enough to sustain adult interest. But if you are looking for something to take your kids to watch during the holidays, then this is a good candidate. The animation is great and looks good in 3D. The penguins are loveable in their own bizarre ways and are voiced well. A zippy, fun filled romp.