Saturday, 28 February 2015

THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL

As the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has only a single remaining vacancy - posing a rooming predicament for two fresh arrivals - Sonny pursues his expansionist dream of opening a second hotel. -- IMDB

THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL is, indeed, the second best, coming nowhere near the high standard of the first movie. It feels sluggish and tired with only real standout being Maggie Smith in her role as Muriel. The colours of India are always beautiful but that is not enough. If you are looking for a lesser experience than the first movie but are happy to just go along expecting little you will probably be charmed. Otherwise, wait for the DVD.


Friday, 27 February 2015

NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - WHIPLASH

Go and rent the newly released WHIPLASH now! I consider it one of the best (if not THE best) movies of 2014. A promising young drummer enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student's potential. Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant! 

PS: It is still showing in some cinemas, so see it there if you can!

THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Ready for some new movies to check out?

TOP PICK TO SEE


Top pick to see this week is A MOST VIOLENT YEAR. In New York City 1981, an ambitious immigrant fights to protect his business and family during the most dangerous year in the city's history. Stars Oscar Isaac (Drive) and Jessica Chasten (Zero Dark Thirty). The Guardian's Xan Brooks  describes JC Chandor's period crime drama [as] rigorous, resourceful and as smart as a whip...But its canny tactical struggle remains a joy to behold. I'm looking forward to seeing this one!

OTHERS TO SEE


EASTERN BOYS looks intriguing and demanding. They come from all over Eastern Europe: Russia, Romania, Ukraine. They are Eastern boys. The oldest appear no more than 25; as for the youngest, there is no way of telling their age. They hang around the Gare du Nord train station in Paris. They might be prostitutes, but there is no way of knowing for certain. Muller, a discreet man in his late fifties has his eye on one of them - Marek. One afternoon, Muller gathers his courage and speaks to him. The young man agrees to come visit Muller the following day, at his place. However the next day, when the doorbell rings, Muller doesn't have the faintest idea that he has fallen into a trap. - Written by anonymous on IMDB. For Variety's Guy Lodge, Campillo's original screenplay demands any number of trusting leaps from its audience and characters alike, yet maintains credibility thanks to the studied assurance of its most elaborate setpieces, and the wealth of socioeconomic detail in its portrayal of both Daniel's aging-yuppie lifestyle and the nervous group dynamic of the immigrants.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL, the sequel to the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has arrived and because the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has only a single remaining vacancy - posing a rooming predicament for two fresh arrivals - Sonny pursues his expansionist dream of opening a second hotel. The Hollywood Reporter's Leslie Felperin is close to the mark describing it as a sluggish also-ran compared to its predecessor. I'll post my review soon but I'd give it **1/2. Wait for the DVD.

PROJECT ALMANAC is a sci-fi thriller in which a group of teens discover secret plans of a time machine, and construct one. However, things start to get out of control. The San Francisco Chronicle says it is High on fun but low on depth[.] Project Almanac is told entirely from the perspective of a video camera, which instantly made me regret that I had eaten dinner before the screening. So be warned - if you suffer from motion sickness you might want to give it a miss. The general viewer is rating it as average.

MOVIE TO AVOID


Finally, the Chinese fantasy, SNOW GIRL AND THE DARK CRYSTAL tells the story of legendary Chinese anti-hero Zhong Kui, a young man endowed with mysterious powers who is forced into a battle among the realms of Heaven, Earth and Hell in the course of his attempt to save his countrymen and the woman he loves. The general public are scoring this one low so don't bother.

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

*NOTE* Movie summaries are adaptations of movie summary on IMDB. Opinions are mine unless credited.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

ROSEWATER

Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari is detained by Iranian forces who brutally interrogate him under suspicion that he is a spy. -- IMDB

A solid but bland retelling of a very timely movie. There are many journalists who are imprisoned in war zones and by oppressive regimes and we need to be aware of their plight. From that point of view, this movie is worth seeing.



Friday, 20 February 2015

JUPITER ASCENDING

In a bright and colorful future, a young destitute caretaker gets targeted by the ruthless son of a powerful family who lives on a planet in need of a new heir, so she travels with a genetically engineered warrior to the planet in order to stop his tyrant reign. -- IMDB

The acting is mediocre, the first third incoherently jumps all around the place, the storyline ok - but the special effects are absolutely awesome! The Wachowski brothers, who brought us the Matrix trilogy, haven't given us as good a story as in the Matrix, but the photography and special effects are stunning, especially in 3D. Very pleasing on the eye, vividly rendered, energetic  with some holes poked a astrology, crop circles and bureaucracy - among others. It's fast paced with lots of action and, if you are looking for a movie during which you forget about plot holes and just revel in the slickness of the effects, this is for you.



Thursday, 19 February 2015

NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES

At last, A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES, starring Liam Neeson who is a private investigator, Matthew Scudder, who is hired by a drug kingpin to find out who kidnapped and murdered his wife. I loved this movie and can't work out why I didn't review it when I saw it. No matter! It's a great noir thriller.


THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Three new movies come to our screens this week ...

TOP PICK TO SEE


The top pick to see this week is a Korean drama which, unfortunately, is not in many cinemas. So check your cinema information to see if it is showing near you and take a look. It's ODE TO MY FATHER set amid the time of the Korean War. A young boy's vow to take care of his family marked the beginning of a lifelong promise spanning 60 years. I've seen this one and my review will be posted shortly - so watch out for it. I give it ***1/2

OTHERS TO SEE


ROSEWATER is a biographical drama in which an Iranian-Canadian journalist, Maziar Bahari, is detained by Iranian forces who brutally interrogate him under suspicion that he is a spy. The Playlist's Chris Willman makes an interesting comment on this movie: For better or worse, torture-themed films don't get too much easier to take than this one. I've already seen this one, too, and don't believe it will have wide appeal. I'll post my review soon. I give it ***

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


JUPITER ASCENDING, an action fantasy sci-fi starring Channing Tatum (21 Jump Street) and Mila Kunis (Black Swan), takes place in a bright and colorful future where a young destitute caretaker gets targeted by the ruthless son of a powerful family who lives on a planet in need of a new heir, so she travels with a genetically engineered warrior to the planet in order to stop his tyrant reign. This may or may not be worth seeing depending on your tastes. The critics don't like it much. Variety's Peter Debruge laments that, While the Wachowskis have always put their greatest emphasis on aesthetics, they allow the visual impulse to get the best of them here, investing so much attention in creating unique fashions, technology, architecture and design that they've blinded themselves to the huge logical gaps in their own story. This is another one I have seen and will post my review asap! I give it ***1/2

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

*NOTE* Movie summaries are adaptations of movie summary on IMDB. Opinions are mine unless credited.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY

Literature student Anastasia Steele's life changes forever when she meets handsome, yet tormented, billionaire Christian Grey. -- IMDB

Well... here's the review you've been waiting for! I'm going to go against the tide and tell you that FIFTY SHADES OF GREY is a good movie. I agree with one reviewer who suggested that, if the movie was in French and had English subtitles, the critics would probably be raving about it. I don't know why so many think this is a bad movie - maybe because they were expecting it to have as much sex in it as the books - it doesn't. Fortunately, the director, Sam Taylor-Johnson, has stripped away the poor writing of the book and produced a film that is worthy of a viewing.

The dialogue between Christian (Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) is more intelligent and witty than the book. There is quite a good sense of humour portrayed by the two as they develop their relationship. Anastasia is intelligent, confident and in control of herself and the situation. In fact, Dakota Johnson is superb in her role giving us a nuanced performance with emotional depth. Jamie Dornan slowly develops his character as he is challenged by Anastasia resisting his attempts to control her while yearning for a normal romantic relationship. Anastasia's character develops nicely over the course of the narrative. The soundtrack is good with contemporary songs supporting the story. The cinematography by Seamus McGarvey (The Avengers, Atonement) is excellent.

In my view, FIFTY SHADES can be seen to reflect much of what women experience in traditional marriages - particularly conservative religious marriages. The husband, as the head of the household, wants to control what goes on while women are told to submit to their husbands in order to find true happiness and freedom. The difference in the movie is that, unlike many conservative religious marriages, the woman can say no and leave the relationship easily. Seen from this perspective, FIFTY SHADES is actually a critique of this form of relationship. I'll leave viewers to think further on this if they wish.

FIFTY SHADES is a smartly provocative  story with a stunning finale that leaves us hanging waiting for the next instalment. If the second episode does as good a job of stripping away the cringeworthy aspects of the books, it will be worth seeing where the story goes.



Sunday, 15 February 2015

WHAT WE DID ON OUR HOLIDAYS

Explores the meaning of life and suggests how best to live and love. -- IMDB

What a surprising little gem this comedy drama is. It starts out like a run-of-the-mill dysfunctional family going on a visit for the kids' grandfather's birthday. But when they arrive events take a dramatic turn - and we are treated to a delightful reflection on life and death. Billy Connolly is great as the grandfather dying of cancer and the supporting cast put on good turns. But the three children in this story are truly outstanding. This is a beautiful, celebratory, inspiring movie with a deep message about the need to accept all of us ridiculous humans for who we are. A joy to watch.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

THE WEDDING RINGER

Two weeks shy of his wedding, a socially awkward guy enters into a charade by hiring the owner of a company that provides best men for grooms in need. -- IMDB

I was pleasantly surprised by this romantic comedy starring Kevin Hart and Josh Gad.  There was some laugh out moments and good humour. There is not a lot that is new. But it's smart and entertaining.



NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - THE JUDGE

Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall make this average movie worth watching at home this weekend.

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. -- IMDB

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.


Thursday, 12 February 2015

THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

A couple of movies to put on your list - although none of them are outstanding.

TOP PICK TO SEE


Top of the bunch this week is SELMA. It's a chronicle of Martin Luther King's campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965. Here's what I thought of it:

The word 'chronicle' in the IMDB description is apt for this overlong drama. While I learned a lot about the incidents surrounding the Selma campaign, it was a mostly dry telling of the story. It is as though we are somewhat distanced from the events with rare moments of emotional engagement.  It doesn't seem "raw" enough or tense enough. Apparently the real people of Selma had to struggle with rain, mud and hardship during the marches. None of this is portrayed in the movie. The narrative unfolds chronologically and "objectively". Not enough is really explored about King's relationship with his wife, although there are tantalising hints. But it's all a bit too simple. David Oyelowo does an excellent job of reincarnating King with a few inspiring oratory moments - he is probably the best reason for seeing the movie. Overall, it's a pretty average retelling of a very significant story. The most disturbing thing is how recent this history is and how far there is to go in furthering the ideals King promoted. ***1/2

OTHERS TO SEE


WHAT WE DID ON OUR HOLIDAYS is a surprising little gem. It's a comedy drama with top billing going to Rosamund Pike, David Tennant and Billy Connolly that explores the meaning of life and suggests how best to live and love. I will review it shortly.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


The infamous THE INTERVIEW opens this week. 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. Here's what I thought of it:

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. **1/2

MOVIE TO AVOID


One movie to avoid this week - the long-awaited FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. For those of you who have read the books, you'll know what it is about. For those of you you haven't, literature student Anastasia Steele's life changes forever when she meets handsome, yet tormented, billionaire Christian Grey. On average, it is rating very poorly. General public are giving it around *1/2 and critics **1/2.  indieWIRE's Eric Kohn is representative: Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson from Kelly Marcel's screenplay, the considerable talent behind the camera and a modicum of considerable performances yield a few undeniable guilty pleasures, but most viewers will be seeking a safe word to escape this two-hour-plus mess of half-baked excess. I'll be seeing it on Sunday (I review movies, after all!) and will let you know what I think.

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

*NOTE* Movie summaries are adaptations of movie summary on IMDB. Opinions are mine unless credited.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

THE GAMBLER

Lit professor and gambler Jim Bennett's debt causes him to borrow money from his mother and a loan shark. Further complicating his situation is his relationship with one of his students. Will Bennett risk his life for a second chance? -- IMDB

This one pretty much falls flat. I found it unengaging, little real tension, and Wahlberg not quite up to the task of playing a nuanced character. Visually and technically, it's a polished movie. But there's nothing about it that ultimately convinces us of its authenticity. There are no risks taken in the retelling of this 1970s movie and little creativity. Spend your money on something else.


Saturday, 7 February 2015

SELMA

A chronicle of Martin Luther King's campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965. -- IMDB

The word 'chronicle' in the IMDB description is apt for this overlong drama. While I learned a lot about the incidents surrounding the Selma campaign, it was a mostly dry telling of the story. It is as though we are somewhat distanced from the events with rare moments of emotional engagement.  It doesn't seem "raw" enough or tense enough. Apparently the real people of Selma had to struggle with rain, mud and hardship during the marches. None of this is portrayed in the movie. The narrative unfolds chronologically and "objectively". Not enough is really explored about King's relationship with his wife, although there are tantalising hints. But it's all a bit too simple. David Oyelowo does an excellent job of reincarnating King with a few inspiring oratory moments - he is probably the best reason for seeing the movie. Overall, it's a pretty average retelling of a very significant story. The most disturbing thing is how recent this history is and how far there is to go in furthering the ideals King promoted.


NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - SON OF A GUN

There's still time to watch a movie this weekend. A new Australian movie, SON OF A GUN, is definitely worth a look.

JR busts out of prison with Brendan Lynch, Australia's most notorious criminal, and joins Lynch's gang for a gold heist that soon pits the two men against one another. -- 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.


Friday, 6 February 2015

THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Just one movie you MUST check out this week if it's only one you can see ...

TOP PICK TO SEE


Make sure you don't miss out on seeing KINKGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE. A spy organization recruits an unrefined, but promising street kid into the agency's ultra-competitive training program just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius. Here's a copy of my recent review:

I saw it at a pre-screening - 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, there's 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. It's 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!

OTHERS TO SEE


The French comedy ME, MYSELF AND MUM tells the story of 'Mrs. Gallienne, a rather temperamental upper middle-class lady, has three children, two of whom she considers as her sons and another she calls Guillaume. Logically indeed, the latter teenage creature does not picture himself as a boy, rather as a girl or at best as a homosexual. But how can a mother act in such an objectionable way? And why? Through a series of painful chain of experiences, Guillaume will discover little by little who he is actually and will manage to break free from her pernicious influence.' - Written by Guy Bellinger (IMDB)


MAYBE/MAYBE NOT



Mark Wahlberg's latest outing is THE GAMBLER. He plays Jim Bennett, a lit professor and gambler whose debt causes him to borrow money from his mother and a loan shark. Further complicating his situation is his relationship with one of his students. Will Bennett risk his life for a second chance? For Variety's Justin Chang, THE GAMBLER is 'A movie of slick, surface-level pleasures that's unpersuasive at its core.'


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


*NOTE* Movie summaries are adaptations of movie summary on IMDB. Opinions are mine unless credited.


Thursday, 5 February 2015

FOXCATCHER

The greatest Olympic Wrestling Champion brother team 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. -- IMDB

I found this movie very slow and pretty boring. I looked at my watch quite a few times to see how long before it was going to finish. The whole thing was pretty bland until the climax at the end. I'm not sure why one would want to make a movie over two hours long about someone who was mostly insignificant except for his objectionable personality and a tragic conclusion. The acting is good by Carell and Ruffalo, Carell's makeup is excellent. But the whole thing just doesn't seem to be alive! Wait for the DVD.


Tuesday, 3 February 2015

STILL ALICE

Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children, is a renowned linguistics professor who starts to forget words. When she receives a devastating diagnosis, Alice and her family find their bonds tested. -- IMDB

STILL ALICE is a brilliantly delicate and disturbing story about a woman at the height of her intellectual powers who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's Disease. Julianne Moore is excellent as Alice as she slowly succumbs to the steady progress of her condition which wipes out her personality. Alec Baldwin is understated as her husband and, surprisingly, Kristen Stewart (Twilight) is excellent as Alice's daughter who connects with her mother more than anyone else in the family. This is the first movie (according to the director) which looks at Alzheimer's through the eyes of the person experiencing it. It's a must see that is confronting in its understated handling of a very difficult subject.