Saturday, 28 March 2015

THAT SUGAR FILM (2015)

Damon Gameau embarks on a unique experiment to document the effects of a high sugar diet on a healthy body, consuming only foods that are commonly perceived as 'healthy'. Through this entertaining and informative journey, Damon highlights some of the issues that plague the sugar industry, and where sugar lurks on supermarket shelves. Damon's journey to discover the bitter truth about sugar will forever change the way you think about 'healthy' food. -- ROTTEN TOMATOES

A disturbing movie despite its lighthearted approach. Makes you realise that foods advertised as healthy are very often very UNhealthy! This documentary is very well presented and very innovative in its techniques. It's certainly improved my understanding of the dangers of certain types of sugars and how the sugar industry use similar advertising strategies that cigarette companies are known for. I'll never look at health food the same way again! Very thought-provoking! Perhaps the only criticism I would have is that it is one-sided. And I'm not qualified to evaluate all the facts that are presented. And one person's experience doesn't prove anything. The whole approach is quite unscientific. But make sure you check it out. It's worth a night out at the movies to see it - and would make a good discussion starter over a hot chocolate afterwards.


INSURGENT (2015)

Beatrice Prior must confront her inner demons and continue her fight against a powerful alliance which threatens to tear her society apart with the help from others on her side. -- IMDB

Very disappointing given how good the first one in the series was. The special effects were good, Shailene Woodley put her all into it, the fights are well choreographed, but overall it was bland and boring until near the end when it picked up a bit during the simulations. Dialogue is superficial and obvious. 3D doesn't add anything much so save your money. Let's hope the next one returns to form!


RUN ALL NIGHT (2015)

Mobster and hit man Jimmy Conlon has one night to figure out where his loyalties lie: with his estranged son, Mike, whose life is in danger, or his longtime best friend, mob boss Shawn Maguire, who wants Mike to pay for the death of his own son.

Putting Liam Neeson (Jimmy Conlon) and Ed Harris (Shawn Maguire) into the same movie has to be entertaining - and this was an entertaining movie even if somewhat predictable. The premise was good - Jimmy shoots Shawn's son to protect his own estranged son. Then Shawn wants to kill Jimmy's son in revenge. Jimmy wants to protect his son from Shawn and the rest of the movie is about the rest of the night with a deadly chase on.  (Did you follow that? The rest of the plot is no less convoluted!) Neeson is his usual self, playing (again) a man who has a history of violence, which he's left behind, being forced to use his skills to protect someone. It's a common plot line but the relationship between the two main protagonists adds a nice dimension to the story.  And Ed Harris, looking aged and rugged, brings an emotional intensity to his role. It's fast paced and violent with no great depth. But it's a slight cut above Neeson's TAKEN movies.


BIG EYES (2014)

A drama about the awakening of the painter Margaret Keane, her phenomenal success in the 1950s, and the subsequent legal difficulties she had with her husband, who claimed credit for her works in the 1960s. -- IMDB

I really enjoyed this one. Amy Adams (Margaret Keane) and Christopher Waltz (Walter Keane) are both excellent. It's a fascinating piece of history and reflects the status of women in the '50s. There's great tension as the events unfold and Margaret desperately tries to reclaim he identity as a painter. Most of Tim Burton's movies are dark animations - so this is a welcome turn of direction on his part. Not only is the story engaging, it's a provocative piece of social commentary. Definitely worth seeing!


Thursday, 26 March 2015

THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

At last! Some good movies to see this week...

TOP PICK TO SEE

At the top of the list is LEVIATHAN. It's set in a Russian coastal town in which Kolya is forced to fight the corrupt mayor when he is told that his house will be demolished. He recruits a lawyer friend to help, but the man's arrival brings further misfortune for Kolya and his family. The Hollywood Reporter's Leslie Felperin describes it as 'Simultaneously a modern essay on suffering, an open-ended thriller, and a black social comedy, it is most importantly of all a thinly-veiled political parable drenched in bitter irony that takes aim against the corrupt, corrosive regime of Vladimir Putin.' Looks excellent!

OTHERS TO SEE

Disney is back with a new CINDERELLA. You know the story. When her father unexpectedly passes away, young Ella finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and her daughters. Never one to give up hope, Ella's fortunes begin to change after meeting a dashing stranger. Variety's Peter Debruge says that, 'Though this Cinderella could never replace Disney's animated classic, it's no ugly stepsister either, but a deserving companion.'

I've been hanging out to see SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE ever since I saw the cute trailer. When Shaun decides to take the day off and have some fun, he gets a little more action than he bargained for. A mix up with the Farmer, a caravan and a very steep hill lead them all to the Big City and it's up to Shaun and the flock to return everyone safely to the green grass of home. It's getting good scores from audience and critics alike. The Guardian's Andrew Pulver likes it: 'The Aardman vision of contemporary England is generous, inclusive and - if a fast-moving film about a smart-alec sheep can allow itself such grandiose ambitions - genuinely inspiring.'

Mark Ruffalo is popping up in lots of movies lately. His latest is INFINITELY POLAR BEAR in which he plays A manic-depressive mess of a father who tries to win back his wife by attempting to take full responsibility of their two young, spirited daughters, who don't make the overwhelming task any easier. It's a comedy drama which, according to The Hollywood Reporter's John DeFore is 'A feel-good picture that is a little less affecting than it might have been, but is entertaining enough.'

For those of you into fashion, you might enjoy DIOR AND I. It's a documentary '[that] brings the viewer inside the storied world of the Christian Dior fashion house with a privileged, behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Raf Simons' first haute couture collection as its new artistic director-a true labor of love created by a dedicated group of collaborators. Melding the everyday, pressure-filled components of fashion with mysterious echoes from the iconic brand's past, the film is also a colorful homage to the seamstresses who serve Simons' vision. - Written by The Orchard'.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT

A LITTLE CHAOS is the story of a female landscape-gardener who is awarded the esteemed assignment to construct the grand gardens at Versailles, a gilt-edged position which thrusts her to the very centre of the court of King Louis XIV. It was disappointingly average. I'll post my review shortly. ***

Finally, there's the comedy GET HARD. When millionaire James King is nailed for fraud and bound for San Quentin, he turns to Darnell Lewis to prep him to go behind bars. Written by Etan Cohen and starring Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart. I don't hold much hope for this one. HitFix's Drew McWeeny says it's 'Competently made but morally repellent, [and] may be my least favorite Will Ferrell feature film.'

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.

Monday, 23 March 2015

CHAPPiE

In the near future, crime is patrolled by a mechanized police force. When one police droid, Chappie, is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself. -- IMDB

A mixed bag. It's a combination of action, themed around the relationship between mind and body, over-the-top quirkiness, laugh-out-loud nonsense, and moments of serious drama. I enjoyed it even though it doesn't achieve the heights of previous movies by this director and writer (District 9, Elysium). Entertaining, action packed and, at times, provocative as it explores some serious themes related to artificial intelligence. Check it out.

 

Saturday, 21 March 2015

TOP FIVE

A comedian tries to make it as a serious actor when his reality-TV star fiancée talks him into broadcasting their wedding on her TV show. --IMDB

Chris Rock wrote and directed TOP FIVE. I don't quite understand why critics are raving about this movie. It pretty much hit rock bottom for me when, in one scene, one of the characters inserts a tampon covered in hot chilli sauce up the rectum of another. The basic premise has the potential for a good story. But Chris Rock hasn't pulled it off. It essentially suffers from he same problem that a lot of contemporary comedy does - the inability to rise above the crude to create intelligent situation-derived humour. It's predictable and contrived. In my opinion - give it a miss.


Wednesday, 18 March 2015

THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Well... we seem to be travelling through a low period when it comes to great movies. But here goes...

TOP PICK TO SEE


HOME, from the trailers, looks like a good fun animation adventure comedy. Oh, an alien on the run from his own people, lands on Earth and makes friends with the adventurous Tip, who is on a quest of her own. Audiences seem to be enjoying it.

OTHERS TO SEE


BIG EYES looks interesting. Based on a true story, its a drama about the awakening of the painter Margaret Keane, her phenomenal success in the 1950s, and the subsequent legal difficulties she had with her husband, who claimed credit for her works in the 1960s. According to Empire, Tim Burton's return to real-life storytelling is entertaining but flawed. See it for a fascinating true story and a fantastic Amy Adams. Beware the uneven tone, a lack of depth and Christoph Waltz's monumental mugging.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


Yet another Liam Neeson movie and pairing up with Ed Harris, RUN ALL NIGHT tells the story of mobster and hit man Jimmy Conlon who has one night to figure out where his loyalties lie: with his estranged son, Mike, whose life is in danger, or his longtime best friend, mob boss Shawn Maguire, who wants Mike to pay for the death of his own son. It looks like a typical Neeson action crime drama. Empire's Chris Hewitt is disappointed in the end: With Neeson on fine form and an encouraging start, it's a shame that this gritty crime drama feels the need to erupt into a full-blown action movie by the end. Audiences are rating it around ***1/2.

The second episode in the Divergent series, INSURGENT, opens today. Following on from DIVERGENT, Beatrice Prior must confront her inner demons and continue her fight against a powerful alliance which threatens to tear her society apart with the help from others on her side. Critics and audiences are divided. For The Telegraph's Robbie Collin, It plays like a listless mash-up of every Young Adult franchise movie you've ever seen - domineering rulers, anguished, system-smashing teens, and all the purposeful striding through rubble you can handle. Audiences are rating it around ***.

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.

Monday, 16 March 2015

MANNY LEWIS

The film follows the story of a famous fictional stand-up comedian Manny Lewis, who connects with millions of fans but finds it hard to connect to one person. Manny struggles to overcome his sense of alienation and shyness, and a difficult relationship with his father, in a romantic and feel-good quest for the love of the quirky Maria.
- Written by Charlotte Greig (IMDB)

MANNY LEWIS was a delightful surprise! Manny is played by Carl Barron (who also cowrote the screenplay) who is an Australian comedian. Barron plays Manny with charming understatement. Manny's love interest is played by Leeanna Walsman (Star Wars Episode 2) who is gentle and subtle and together, they have a genuine chemistry on screen. This movie is funny and sad at the same time. It's great to see a romantic comedy drama with people who are not beautiful (in the celebrity sense - sorry, Manny and Maria!). Apart from a somewhat cheesy ending, MANNY LEWIS has true depth with some great situational/observational comedy - much like Barron's stage comedy for which he is famous. Thoroughly enjoyable.



Saturday, 14 March 2015

THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Sorry for the delay in letting you know this week's new cinema releases! I've been travelling... but, here we go...

TOP PICK TO SEE


Top of the list to see this week is, surprisingly, MANNY LEWIS. 'The film follows the story of a famous fictional stand-up comedian Manny Lewis, who connects with millions of fans but finds it hard to connect to one person. Manny struggles to overcome his sense of alienation and shyness, and a difficult relationship with his father, in a romantic and feel-good quest for the love of the quirky Maria' -- Written by Charlotte Greig.  When I saw this today, I was very pleasantly surprised. I'll post my review shortly. ****1/2

OTHERS TO SEE


TOP FIVE is a comedy romance that the critics and audiences seem to like. A comedian tries to make it as a serious actor when his reality-TV star fiancée talks him into broadcasting their wedding on her TV show. Written and directed by Chris Rock. For indieWIRE's Eric Kohn,
Rock's savage wit comes through in the wry screenplay, which is loaded with topicality as it pokes fun at subjects ranging from Tyler Perry movies to Angry Birds. Looks good.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


CHAPPIE looked ok in the trailers but, despite audiences giving it average scores, critics don't like it at all. What's it about? In the near future, crime is patrolled by a mechanized police force. When one police droid, Chappie, is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself. According to Tribune News Service's Roger Moore, Wrongheaded in conception, eye-rolling in execution, Chappie is a childish blend of the cute robot goofiness of “Short Circuit,” and the bloody-minded mayhem of “Robocop.” Neill Blomkamp, the director of “District 9,” has utterly exhausted his supply of South African sci-fi ideas with this disaster, an excruciating two hours of your life you will fear, quite rightly, ever getting back. Your decision.

Finally, the action crime drama, KIDNAPPING MR HEINEKEN, tells the the inside story of the planning, execution, rousing aftermath and ultimate downfall of the kidnappers of beer tycoon Alfred "Freddy" Heineken, which resulted in the largest ransom ever paid for an individual. Audiences are rating it as average but the critics are down on this one. The A.V. Club describes it as Much like the lager that gives the film its name, Kidnapping Mr. Heineken is bland on the palette and best pissed away.

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 March 2015

FOCUS (2015)

In the midst of veteran con man Nicky's latest scheme, a woman from his past - now an accomplished femme fatale - shows up and throws his plans for a loop. --IMDB

 FOCUS is a slow movie, the main value of which is that I came out from the movie with greater insight into how pickpockets work at their trade so successfully. At times if felt like the story had moved into education mode giving instruction so we would know what to look for later. Will Smith at the helm didn't do much to improve the experience and, if it wasn't for the stunning Margot Robbie, the whole thing would have been rather drab. Most of the exciting twists and turns occurred late in the story and felt rather contrived. Wait for the DVD or give it a miss all together.






Saturday, 7 March 2015

NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY - PART 1

Have you been waiting for THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY - PART 1 to be released on DVD? It has been this week!

MY REVIEW: The mistake this episode makes is trying to spread the last book of the series into two parts - suspiciously like trying to extract as much money from fans as they can. MOCKINGJAY Part 1 plods along for most of the movie with little substance and becomes bogged down with repetition (scene after scene has a helicopter taking off and landing - and Katniss does a lot of crying). Katniss's character is quite weakly represented in this movie, which is disappointing given the strength she has shown in previous episodes. There are intense moments and its actors do a great job with Jennifer Lawrence, despite the insipid script, remains charismatic. But it's essentially pretty boring. Of course, those of us who have loved the series so far (and I'm one of them) have to see this episode for completeness. Don't expect too much.



Wednesday, 4 March 2015

THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Not a lot on offer that's new this week... but you might like to check out a couple of movies at the cinema...

TOP PICK TO SEE


Top of the list to head off to see this week is the comedy UNFINISHED BUSINESS. A hard-working small business owner and his two associates travel to Europe to close the most important deal of their lives. But what began as a routine business trip goes off the rails in every way imaginable - and unimaginable - way, including unplanned stops at a massive sex fetish event and a global economic summit. Critic reviews aren't in yet but general viewers are giving this around ***1/2. So don't expect too much!

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


FOCUS takes place in the midst of veteran con man Nicky's latest scheme when a woman from his past - now an accomplished femme fatale - shows up and throws his plans for a loop. The trailer looks fun and with Will Smith and Margot Robbie in the lead roles, it could be ok. Total Film's Andrew Lowry comments: With the story fit to burst with an Ocean's trilogy worth of hustles, tricks and grifts (some of them smart, others groan-inducing), at least Robbie is the genuine article - sharing playful chemistry with Smith, but ultimately stealing the movie from right under his nose. I'm looking forward to seeing Robbie!

MOVIE TO AVOID


Yet another movie to avoid this week (why do they make them!) is SEVENTH SON in which young Thomas is apprenticed to the local Spook to learn to fight evil spirits. His first great challenge comes when the powerful Mother Malkin escapes her confinement while the Spook is away. Julianne Moore plays Mother Makin. Why would she be in a movie like this?! Variety's Peter Debruge says that, Given the fine past work of its many parents, there was clearly potential here, but as delivered, Seventh Son amounts to nothing short of a creative miscarriage. Doesn't sound good!

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.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

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. -- IMDB

A sluggish action crime drama with very little action or drama. It clearly aims to be a complex, tense thriller but doesn't succeed in its ambitions. Most of the story is dialogue driven with Oscar Isaac (Abel Morales) and Jessica Chastain (Anna Morales) put in adequate performances. As we follow Abel desperately trying to break from his family history of thuggery and crime, there are moments where we realise how impossible this is going to be as the story progresses - but the whole thing is lifeless with a contrived ending that doesn't really fit and is too neat. The cinematography by Bradford Young (Selma) is effectively depressing and is perhaps the most creative dimension of the film. The title suggests that there will be a lot of violence and there isn't much at all. There is so much more that could have been done with this story but the depths of its potential wasn't tapped.