Tuesday, 28 April 2015

TESTAMENT OF YOUTH (2015)

A British woman recalls coming of age during World War I.  --IMDB

The autobiography on which this movie is based has been hailed as one of the most moving testaments about WW1. Unfortunately, this emotional depth has not been achieved in the movie. It has the feel of many other WW1 stories I have watched and comes across as being mostly standard fare for this genre. That is not to say it wasn't enjoyable. The acting is competent, the photography beautiful, it portrays the suffering of soldiers and the care nurses provided under shocking conditions, and there is romance. While the whole movie is a bit familiar, for those who like a period drama, this will be satisfying viewing.


THE BOOK OF LIFE (2014)

Manolo, a young man who is torn between fulfilling the expectations of his family and following his heart, embarks on an adventure that spans three fantastic worlds where he must face his greatest fears. --IMDB

A wonderfully vibrant animated story with a Mexican flavour - cultural, musical, and mythological. Moves along at a nice pace with a freshness that should appeal to child and adult alike. Some have criticised this movie has being superficial. That may be so - but, if true, the high quality animation and the zesty pace makes up for that in my opinion. Some of the themes might need some adult-guided discussion with children - the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead, love triangles, death and eternal life, ancestor worship, bullfighting, and more. So parents should take note of the PG rating. A rich array of subjects to engage viewers long after it is over.


Thursday, 23 April 2015

AVENGERS: THE AGE OF ULTRON (2015)

When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and it is up to the Avengers to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plans. --IMDB

Thoroughly enjoyable. Great humour, excellent action, and a challenging enemy - with all the old stars and a few new ones, this episode is worth travelling to the cinema for. The dialogue is witty, the script fast-paced, slightly darker, and stunning 3D. Go see it!



Wednesday, 22 April 2015

YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Just three new movies to head to the cinemas for this week...

TOP PICK TO SEE


Top pick this week is AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON. In this episode, when Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and it is up to the Avengers to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plans. Screen International's Tim Grierson says that, Whedon and his large, capable cast (even larger for this follow-up) deliver enough adventure, laughs and flat-out spectacle to ensure that audiences will feel as if they have gotten their money's worth, especially when Ultron zeroes in on the quiet humanity beneath the special effects. I'd agree.  I saw it last night and it's a very entertaining movie. I'll post my review shortly.

OTHERS TO SEE


BANKSY DOES NEW YORK is a documentary chronicling the famed street artist's "31 works of art in 31 days" in New York city. Don't know much about this one but looks like it's an outing for the artists among us.

Finally, this week, TESTAMENT OF YOUTH is a about a British woman who recalls coming of age during World War I. It's a biographical drama which, according to Total Film's Simon Kinnear ... brings fresh emotional weight to the familiar scenario of WW1 grief, ensuring that this mostly avoids the traps of dull, dutiful heritage cinema. Perhaps a good one to see this weekend for ANZAC Day.

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, 19 April 2015

THE AGE OF ADALINE (2015)

A young woman, born at the turn of 20th century, is rendered ageless after an accident. After years of a solitary life, she meets a man who might be worth losing her immortality for. -- IMDB

I really enjoyed this drama romance with a bit of sci-fi thrown in. The beginning and end present the sci-fi premise for what occurs, but in between those two points there is an intriguing story exploring the effects of not being able to grow old while the world and the people you love do. The cinematography and costuming are beautiful. Blake Lively, who plays Adeline, does a great job of traveling through history and trying to hide her identity. Harrison Ford puts in an appearance and Anthony Ingruber, who plays a young Harrison Ford, is uncanny. The direction is subtle and an easy pleasure to stay engaged. A clever and thought-provoking story.


Saturday, 18 April 2015

SAMBA (2014/15)

Samba migrated to France ten years ago from Senegal, and has since been plugging away at various lowly jobs. Alice is a senior executive who has recently undergone a burn-out. Both struggle to get out of their dead-end lives. Samba's willing to do whatever it takes to get working papers, while Alice tries to get her life back on track until fate draws them together. - Written by Toronto International Film Festival

This could have been an interesting, nuanced story about the relationship between two people from very different worlds and the profound ethical and social issues of illegal immigration. But it is slow and plodding with no real chemistry between the two leads (Omar Sy, Charlotte Gainsbourg) and a superficial exploration of the themes. I've never really like Gainsbourg as an actor and found her performance here shallow and unengaging. There are some interesting supporting characters and occasional humorous situations but they are not central to the story of Alice and Samba. It was all pretty bland and didn't seem to explore the issues deeply enough. Once we arrive at the end, it feels unbelievable and inconsistent with events leading up to it.


Thursday, 16 April 2015

YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

There's a few good movies to see this week - even though it's school holidays!

TOP PICK TO SEE


Top of my list is the very intriguing-looking THE AGE OF ADALINE. A young woman, born at the turn of 20th century, is rendered ageless after an accident. After years of a solitary life, she meets a man who might be worth losing her immortality for. The trailer looks enticing and audiences are rating it above average.

OTHERS TO SEE


For those into scary movies, the supernatural horror IT FOLLOWS is getting high scores from critics. A young woman is followed by an unknown supernatural force after getting involved in a sexual encounter. indieWIRE's Eric Kohn say, No matter its conceptual intentions, It Follows never ventures too far from visceral horror. Mitchell populates a number of scenes with well-timed jump scares as the being frequently bursts out of the shadows or appears in unexpected forms, while the score provides a screaming punctuation mark. I'm not a fan of supernatural horror. So probably won't see this. If you do, let us know what you think of it.

For those of you wanting something lighter, Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts team up in the romantic comedy WHILE WE'RE YOUNG. It tells the story of a middle-aged couple's career and marriage are overturned when a disarming young couple enters their lives. The Telegraph's Tim Robey describes the way Baumbach packs his film with the wit and vigour of a polished one-act play, right down to a climax which wants us to notice how much juggling he's doing with his ideas. Sounds good!

TO AVOID


Two to avoid this week. First is THE GUNMAN in which a sniper on a mercenary assassination team, kills the minister of mines of the Congo. Terrier's successful kill shot forces him into hiding. Returning to the Congo years later, he becomes the target of a hit squad himself. You would think that, with Sean Penn and Idris Alba, we might have a good movie hear. But audiences and critics alike are giving it very low scores. Slant Magazine's Chris Cabin criticises it for The lack of any visual ingenuity, reflexivity, or awareness of genre tropes [which] diminishes the intermittent pleasures of the action's slightly involving kineticism.

Finally, and another one to avoid, is PAUL BLART: MALL COP 2. After six years of keeping our malls safe, Paul Blart has earned a well-deserved vacation. He heads to Vegas with his teenage daughter before she heads off to college. But safety never takes a holiday and when duty calls, Blart answers. The trailer for this sequel looks terrible and provides no expectation of a good comedy. Audiences are rating it around 2.5 stars. Take it off the list!

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.

THE LONGEST RIDE (2015)

After an automobile crash, the lives of a young couple intertwine with a much older man, as he reflects back on a past love. -- IMDB

Extremely saccharine, cliched and predictable. The actors did a reasonable job and the slow  motion shots of the bull riding are great. But the rest of it panders to the lowest common denominator of audience desires for romance. I like a good, intelligent romance. This one wasn't. It's artificial and entirely unbelievable. Go back and take another look at THE NOTEBOOK (from the same author) rather than sit through this!


Friday, 10 April 2015

NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - PADDINGTON

I loved PADDINGTON when I saw it at the cinema. It's now out on DVD and you just have to see it! You know the story - A young Peruvian bear travels to London in search of a home. Finding himself lost and alone at Paddington Station, he meets the kindly Brown family, who offer him a temporary haven.

MY REVIEW: 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 last year. 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!


YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Ready to head off to the cinema for a movie? Here are the new releases for this week...

TOP PICK TO SEE


Top of the list is X+Y, a comedy drama in which a socially awkward teenage math prodigy finds new confidence and new friendships when he lands a spot on the British squad at the International Mathematics Olympiad. Nominated for a number of British Independent Film Awards for the acting, this is rating well with audiences.

OTHERS TO SEE


Jude Law stars in the adventure thriller BLACK SEA. In order to make good with his former employers, a submarine captain takes a job with a shadowy backer to search the depths of the Black Sea for a submarine rumored to be loaded with gold. Critics Consensus: Black Sea may not be particularly deep, but thanks to Kevin Macdonald's judicious direction and a magnetic performance from Jude Law, it remains an efficiently well-crafted thriller.  According to Slant Magazine 's Chris Cabin, As much as the film is primarily a genre workout for director Kevin McDonald, the script makes room for a tough-minded, psychologically corrosive depiction of vengeance. I'll definitely be seeing this one.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


THE LONGEST RIDE is being appreciated by audiences but not by critics. Based on the book by the author who brought us The Notebook, this story is about the lives of a young couple which intertwine with a much older man as he reflects back on a lost love while he's trapped in an automobile crash. Sounds like a tear-jerker! Critics Consensus: The Longest Ride is less manipulative than the average Nicholas Sparks film, but it's still saccharine and hopelessly contrived -- not that it'll matter to the target audience. Variety's Scott Foundas says that, Appealing performances by a trio of second- and third-generation Hollywood kids keep this three-hankie twaddle more bearable than it deserves. Audiences are rating it around 3.5 stars - so you are going to have to make your mind up!

TO AVOID


Two movies to avoid this week. First is LET'S GET MARRIED. It's a Chinese romance in which Wenwen, the owner of a bridal boutique, longs to find Mr. Right and walk down the aisle in one of her beautiful wedding gowns. Yi Wen, a violinist, wavers over her engagement after meeting a mysterious man in a foreign country. Lei Xiao, an airport employee, tries to force her pilot boyfriend to marry her. And Hai Xin, a successful business woman, finds herself in a broken marriage and unexpectedly pregnant. Based on the hugely popular Chinese TV series of the same name, Let's Get Married follows the lives of four couples looking for love and to find that special someone to say "I do." So far, it's averaging about 2.5 stars, so give it a wide berth.

Finally, there HOT TUB MACHINE 2. When Lou finds himself in trouble, Nick and Jacob fire up the hot tub time machine in an attempt to get back to the past. But they inadvertently land in the future with Adam Jr. Now they have to alter the future in order to save the past - which is really the present. Critics Consensus: A shallow dip overflowing with juvenile humor, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is a lukewarm sequel that's healthiest to avoid. New York Post's Kyle Smith, warns us: Within five minutes you'll guess why John Cusack, not overly encumbered with big film roles these days, didn't return for the sequel: The script is monotonous, meandering and witless.

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

*NOTE* Movie summaries are adaptations of movie summary on IMDB. Critics consensuses are from Rotten Tomatoes. Opinions are mine unless credited.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

THE DUFF (2015)

A high school senior instigates a social pecking order revolution after finding out that she has been labeled the DUFF - Designated Ugly Fat Friend - by her prettier, more popular counterparts. -- IMDB

The message of this movie is the strongest thing about it. Ranging across the nature of true friendship, cyberbullying, and social stereotypes - this is a movie that every teen would do well to see. The story itself is a bit uneven - it grew on me as it progressed until, by the end, I was really impressed with it. It's a teen movie with more substance than many. Mae Whitman, who plays Bianca, the DUFF of the title, delivers her role with warmth and sensitivity. She's the outstanding actor in this movie. There's great chemistry between the leads. And it's good to see something that tackles some of the more troubling contemporary problems teens face in their relationships without excessive sexual content. A pleasure to watch.


Friday, 3 April 2015

FAST & FURIOUS 7 (2015)

Deckard Shaw seeks revenge against Dominic Toretto and his family for the death of his brother. -- IMDB

I was glad when this one ended. It was increasingly boring as the film moved along. There's too much fighting and not enough of the amazing car chases and stunts the franchise is known for - although there are some pretty amazing ones. The acting is lifeless and the dialogue cheesy. And after all of the incredible car crashes (sometimes without seat belts!), they all just walk away as if nothing happened. There is a nice tribute to Paul Walker at the end of the movie. This movie is only for diehard Furious fans and is better avoided by everyone else. Surely this franchise has come to the end of the road!


Thursday, 2 April 2015

INFINITELY POLAR BEAR (2014)

A manic-depressive mess of a father 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. -- IMDB

Mark Ruffalo is excellent as the bipolar Cameron, the father of two children, in this charming, fun-filled movie. I loved the way in which it shows that aspects of some mental illnesses can be quite positive. Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderheide are wonderful as the high-spirited, demanding, but deeply loving kids. It's a feel good movie that I found moving and uplifting. It's a directorial debut for Maya Forbes so I look forward to more from her in the future.



CINDERELLA (2015)

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.

Destined to be a Disney classic. This is a confidently directed, well-acted, beautiful telling of the traditional fairy tale with a very strong emphasis on the themes of courage and kindness in the midst of trying circumstances. Cate Blanchett is superbly understated as the villainous stepmother. Lily James (Broken) plays Cinderella as a suitably sweet but strong female character. The cinematography and costumes are sumptuous There's no revisionism here. It's a straightforward telling of the story that is fresh and playful. This is quintessential Disney.


LEVIATHAN (2014)

In a Russian coastal town, 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.

A very deep, very slow movie, about the effects of corrupt business destroying a family. Overly long and so loses some of its effectiveness. There needed to be more obvious moments of dramatic tension rather than having essentially the same emotional impact all the way through. The photograph of the rundown landscape in muted greys and blues is the most powerful aspect of the film and is totally depressing and oppressive. The director has perhaps over-emphasised the landscape at the loss of more focus on the characters and the narrative. It's a subtle satire that  is worth a watch if you have a the patience to sit through a slow 140 minutes.


SHAUN THE SHEEP (2015)

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.

Cute and sweet with jokes that are ok. But I was expecting something more intensely satirical and biting. The amazing thing about the movie is the amount of work that must have gone into the animation - which is stop motion. Apparently 20 animators worked on the film producing 2 seconds of footage per day! That's nearly seven years of work to produce 85 minutes of movie!  (If my calculations are correct.) So one almost feels obligated to see the movie given just the human resources that went into it. Apart from that, the whole thing is a bit wooly. And some of the music choices are jarring. But, if you find Shaun the Sheep cute you might like this one.


NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - INTERSTELLAR

INTERSTELLAR is a great movie! A team of explorers travel through a wormhole in an attempt to ensure humanity's survival. Best watched on the big screen in 3D, but should be enjoyable on your large TV screen at home.

MY REVIEW: Wow! This is a stunning movie! INTERSTELLAR is the 2001: A Space Odyssey for this generation - and a darn sight more interesting! It's a long movie - 169 minutes (2 hours and 50 minutes) - but that time allows for a brilliant, richly evocative, thought-provoking story to be told. And it has one of the most surprising, fresh climaxes I've seen in a movie for a long time.

Science fiction, at its best, should explore contemporary themes of significance to humanity - and INTERSTELLAR most certainly does that. What does it mean to be human? How will we deal with the continuing degradation of earth's climate until humans may not be able to live here anymore? What is science? What is hope and what can we hope in? Where do humans fit in the cosmos? Does space provide another place for us?

The answer provided by INTERSTELLAR leaves any idea of god out of the equation. But the movie is shot through, ultimately, with the hope that humankind can adapt, survive, be reborn from the eschatological ashes of a doomed planet.

The music score (including pipe organs) is superb and unnerving and brings a cathedral-like atmosphere to much of the movie when it occurs in space. And, ultimately, it is love that enables the survival of humanity.

I loved this movie (can you tell)! It is profound and provocative and engaging and suspenseful and hopeful and inspiring. See it!


THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

You are going to be surprised to see what the top pick to see this week is... ready?

TOP PICK TO SEE


Top of the list is FAST & FURIOUS 7. Yes, that's right. Believe it or not, audiences are rating it an average of 4 stars and critics 3.5 stars. For Variety's Scott Foundas, Furious 7 provides both a satisfying chapter in the movies' preeminent gearhead soap opera and a tactful, touching memorial to Walker.' According to Rotten Tomatoes, the consensus of critics is that is 'Serv[es] up a fresh round of over-the-top thrills while adding unexpected dramatic heft, Furious 7 keeps the franchise moving in more ways than one. Better check it out!


OTHERS TO SEE


THE BOOK OF LIFE is about Manolo, a young man who is torn between fulfilling the expectations of his family and following his heart, who embarks on an adventure that spans three fantastic worlds where he must face his greatest fears. It's and animated adventure comedy.  The A.V. Club says, The characters move around in a thoroughly realized universe full of imaginative and beautifully rendered detail. Too bad the rest of it isn't more interesting.  Apparently the animation is breathtaking. But the story is not quite up to the visuals. But critics and audiences are rating it a bit higher than 3 stars.

The comedy drama SAMBA might be ok. Samba migrated to France ten years ago from Senegal, and has since been plugging away at various lowly jobs. Alice is a senior executive who has recently undergone a burn-out. Both struggle to get out of their dead-end lives. Samba's willing to do whatever it takes to get working papers, while Alice tries to get her life back on track until fate draws them together.  (Toronto International Film Festival) There's no information from critics yet but general audiences are giving it around 3-3.5 stars.

And then there's THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE OUT OF WATER. When a diabolical pirate above the sea steals the secret Krabby Patty formula, SpongeBob and his nemesis Plankton must team up in order to get it back. Rating around 3 stars for audiences and critics, it will probably be appreciated by Spongebob fans. For Tribune News Service's Roger Moore, The gags, puns mostly, skew quite young. And those things Spongebob does that drive his onscreen castmate nuts - the shrieks and giggles and songs - are pitched to be a lot more irritating to adults than to small fry. Definitely one for the younger crowd.


MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


I know one member of my family loves the Tinker Bell movies. On our screens this week is the next episode: TINKER BELL AND THE LEGEND OF THE NEVERBEAST. Fun and talented animal fairy Fawn believes you can't judge a book by its cover, or an animal by its fangs, so she befriends a huge and mysterious creature known as the NeverBeast. While Tinkerbell and her friends aren't so sure about this scary addition to Pixie Hollow, the elite Scout Fairies set out to capture the monster before he destroys their home. Fawn must trust her heart and take a leap of faith if she hopes to rally the girls to save the NeverBeast. (DisneyToon Studios) The highest ratings for this one are coming from females under 18 (no surprise there) rating it around 4 stars. Males under 18 are giving it around 3.5 stars. The average for all ages and genders is around 3.5 stars. According to The Guardian's Mike McCahill, Though our heroine remains more self-reliant than most Disney princesses, the film is too mild to constitute any kind of statement. If you are a Tinker Bell lover, then this one is especially for you!

Finally for this week, there is THE DUFF. A high school senior instigates a social pecking order revolution after finding out that she has been labeled the DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) to her prettier more popular friends. According to critics, it's not a great teen movie. But there is enough here to make a worthwhile watch - at least, for some critics. Others, though, are not so positive. For The Hollywood Reporter's Sheri Linden, it's More a middle-of-the-road rom-com than a teen-spirit sendup, the pic weaves its lighthearted mix of silly and serious with increasingly heavy-handed spiels on self-esteem. It's a pity because the theme is very timely given the bullying that seems to be prevalent in schools.

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.