Wednesday, 27 May 2015

YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Just three new movies this week - and all are worth seeing!

TOP PICK TO SEE


Top of the list is a drama thriller called PARTISAN which tells the story of Alexander who, raised to see the world through Gregori's eyes, is starting to think for himself. -- IMDB That doesn't tell us much but is currently rating at around ***1/2 stars by general audiences.

OTHERS TO SEE


TOMORROWLAND looks like another entry into the teen market. Bound by a shared destiny, a teen bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor embark on a mission to unearth the secrets of a place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory. George Clooney stars in this one so it may be the draw card. According to Time Out London, When it puts down its copy of 'Political Philosophy for Dummies' and focuses on character and action, Tomorrowland is a blast.

Finally, if you haven't heard or experienced enough about earthquakes, you can check out Dwayne Johnson in San Andreas. In the aftermath of a massive earthquake in California, a rescue-chopper pilot makes a dangerous journey across the state in order to rescue his estranged daughter. It might look good in 3D.

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, 26 May 2015

WOMAN IN GOLD (2015)

Maria Altmann, an octogenarian Jewish refugee, takes on the Austrian government to recover artwork she believes rightfully belongs to her family. -- IMDB

A lot better than I expected. Helen Mirren is excellent as the somewhat eccentric Maria Altmann who wants to pursue the retrieval of a family painting from Austria stolen by the Nazis during WWII. And her relationship with Ryan Reynolds, who plays here inexperienced lawyer, is beautifully drawn. The story is at times sad, frustrating, and humorous - but overall is inspiring. The thing that saves the movie from being somewhat bland is the flashback approach to the story, where we see the young Maria coping with all the stresses of being a young Jewish girl fleeing Nazi persecution and the connection to the present - plus the sharp dialogue between the two leads. A good solid movie about a fascinating story.


A ROYAL NIGHT OUT (2015)

On V.E. Day in 1945, as peace extends across Europe, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret are allowed out to join the celebrations. It is a night full of excitement, danger and the first flutters of romance. -- IMDB

A very enjoyable piece of fictional history. Princess Margaret and Elizabeth did go out on the town on VE day. But what they did has never been made public. This is a speculative account of what they might have got up to! Sarah Gadon (Dracula Untold) and Bel Powley do a great job of the two princess who desperately want freedom but whose personalities influence how they manage it. The story is witty and moves along at a good pace. The movie has all the hallmarks of a British period drama and is done well.



Friday, 22 May 2015

CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA (2014)

A veteran actress comes face-to-face with an uncomfortable reflection of herself when she agrees to take part in a revival of the play that launched her career 20 years earlier. -- IMDB

Oh, how boring this movie is! It's got some great actors - Juliette Binoche (Godzilla) and Chloƫ Grace Moretz (The Equalizer) both put in solid performances. But, wait for it ... Kristen Stewart (Twilight Saga) carries the day in this one - she's even better than Binoche! The essential premise has potential but is never realised. The script is just so tedious I couldn't wait for the movie to finish. The clouds referenced in the title, which are a real phenomenon, were the most interesting thing about the movie - I learnt something! But that interest was very brief indeed. Don't bother with this one.


NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - FIFTY SHADES OF GREY

The infamous FIFTY SHADES OF GREY has been released on video this week. It was better than I expected and, in my opinion, has an undeserved reputation in some quarters. Here's my review:

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.


YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Now that you have recovered from the exhaustion of seeing MAD MAX last week (I hope you did!), here's some calmer movies to check out...

TOP PICK TO SEE


A Spanish comedy/drama/thriller is top of the list this week. It's WILD TALES - six of them, all involving distressed people. It was an Academy Award nominee last year for best foreign language film.  The Playlist's Oliver Lyttelton says, 'It's crisply and cleanly shot throughout, and the filmmaker shows a rare feel for how to not only make comedy land, but also to make it actually feel cinematic too.'


OTHERS TO SEE


Melissa McCarthy appears alongside Rose Byrne and Jason Stratham playing a desk-bound CIA analyst who volunteers to go undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer, and prevent diabolical global disaster. Surprisingly, critics are liking this. For HitFix's Drew McWeeny 'There is a giddy sense of glee that runs through most of this movie, making it feel like Feig can barely contain himself with all of the things he wants to do and show you in the movie.' Sounds like a lot of fun.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


Cinemas have been heavily promoting WOMAN IN GOLD starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds. Mirren plays Maria Altmann, an octogenarian Jewish refugee, who takes on the Austrian government to recover artwork she believes rightfully belongs to her family. General audiences seem to be enjoying this one, although critics not so much. As far as Slant Magazine's Matt Brennan is concerned, 'The film evades all but the most careful commonplaces about the relationship between the viewer and the work of art at its center.'

Finally, there is a remake of the 1982 movie POLTERGEIST. A family whose suburban home is haunted by evil forces must come together to rescue their youngest daughter after the apparitions take her captive. Screen International's Fionnuala Halligan suggests the movie has 'A good cast including Sam Rockwell and Jared Harris [who] wander around sincerely in what feels, at times, almost a shot-by-shot remake, and at others, an obstinately wrong-footed exercise in dabbling with the narrative.' General audiences are rating it as average and critics below average. This genre is not my cup of tea - so if you see it, let us know what you 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, 19 May 2015

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015)

In a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, two rebels just might be able to restore order: Max, a man of action and of few words, and Furiosa, a woman of action who is looking to make it back to her childhood homeland. -- IMDB

The 30 year wait has been worth it! What an incredible movie. It is frenetic from the first frame until, after a few minutes, you get a chance to take a breath before the next bout of action occurs. MAD MAX is absolutely stunning with its brilliant cinematography, powerful soundtrack, wonderful machines, and quirky characters. But this movie is more than just action. There are clever references to the role of women in society, stolen children, destruction of the environment, power by controlling of natural resources and various religious beliefs. There are so many levels in this wonderfully rendered story that it will bear watching many times over. The acting is great with Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron putting in terrific performances. The choreography of the fight scenes are totally extreme and eye-popping. The experience is exhilarating and wonderfully exhausting. There is a self-contained story, so you don't need to have seen the previous Mad Max movies. MAD MAX must be an Oscar contender this year in multiple categories.  If you are going to see this, you MUST see it at the cinema and in 3D. If you miss this then you are crazier than the characters in the movie! Wonderful!


Sunday, 17 May 2015

EX MACHINA (2015)

A young programmer is selected to participate in a breakthrough experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtaking female A.I. -- IMDB

This movie is so good I have seen it twice in two days. One of the most intriguing philosophical sci-fi movies I've seen for ages. At the heart of this movie is the Turing Test (proposed by Alan Turing whose story was told in the recent ENIGMA MACHINE). You can read about the test here. This story pushes the test even further with some very thought provoking twists. The actors (unknown to me) are great, particularly Alicia Vikander who plays Ava, the artificially intelligent robot. Her performance is stunning. The plot is tightly constructed with constant surprises, forcing the viewer to shift perceptions constantly. The music is ominously appropriate. While the movie focuses heavily on ideas, it is still excellent, unsettling entertainment. It's only in limited release as far as I can tell - only in one cinema in my city. If you can find it in yours, make sure you check it out.


Friday, 15 May 2015

YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Ok... Some new visual delights to catch at the cinema this week ...

TOP PICK TO SEE


At last! After 30 years, MAD MAX: FURY ROAD has arrived. In a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, two rebels just might be able to restore order: Max, a man of action and of few words, and Furiosa, a woman of action who is looking to make it back to her childhood homeland. General audiences and critics are rating this an average of 4.5/5 stars. So it looks like our high expectations will be fulfilled. If you haven't seen the original Mad Max movie and its sequels, you'd better get watching then, if you like the frenetic quirkiness, catch the new one at the cinemas. TheWrap's  Alonso Duralde says, Where Fury Road stands apart from so much of today's action cinema is that the human element remains front and center. Can't wait!


OTHERS TO SEE


If you have seen previous animated movies from Hiromasa Yonebayashi (Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, Ponyo) you'll know how beautiful they are. His new movie is WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE in which A young girl is sent to the country for health reasons, where she meets an unlikely friend in the form of Marnie, a young girl with flowing blonde hair. As the friendship unravels it is possible that Marnie has closer ties to the protagonist than we might expect. (David On - IMDB)

Billed as a drama/romance/thriller - but clearly not meant to be taken seriously or considered in any way accurate, A ROYAL NIGHT OUT is about how, on V.E. Day in 1945, as peace extends across Europe, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret are allowed out to join the celebrations. It is a night full of excitement, danger and the first flutters of romance. The trailer looks fun so I imagine this will be an enjoyable piece of entertainment.

Finally, there is CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA which stars Juliette Binoche (Godzilla) and Kristen Stewart (Twilight Saga) tells the story of a veteran actress who comes face-to-face with an uncomfortable reflection of herself when she agrees to take part in a revival of the play that launched her career 20 years earlier. The Telegraph's Robbie Collin describes it as ... a complex, bewitching and melancholy drama, another fearlessly intelligent film from Assayas. Critics are rating it around 4 stars.

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, 13 May 2015

PITCH PERFECT 2 (2015)

After a humiliating command performance at Lincoln Center, the Barden Bellas enter an international competition that no American group has ever won in order to regain their status and right to perform. -- IMDB

A major disappointment. The first Pitch Perfect was intelligent, clever, and inspiring - and very funny. This sequel is essentially the same story but descends into unnecessary crudity and poor jokes at the expense of minority groups. There is some good music, especially by the German team, but the rest of the story and the humour predictable and unimaginative. It seems to just go through the motions of making a sequel because it was expected - and to make money, I assume! Not worth seeing.


Saturday, 9 May 2015

NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - THE IMITATION GAME

THE IMITATION GAME is an excellent movie. So if you didn't catch it at the cinema, rent it this weekend! During World War II, mathematician Alan Turing tries to crack the enigma code with help from fellow mathematicians. Here's my review:

An excellent true story with Benedict Cumberbatch (Alan Turing) putting in what may be his best performance ever. Cumberbatch dominates the entire narrative in his portrayal of the brilliant man who, with Sherlockian logic and profound eccentricity, manages to break the Enigma code allowing full access to the enemy's war plans. The film always provides an insight into the cultural mores of the time around sexuality and gender. It's both an inspiring and tragic story - even if, ultimately, it doesn't quite have the impact one would expect of such a story. It is definitely worth seeing and I have been inspired to follow up by reading the biography of the genius, Alan Turing, on which the film is based.


Friday, 8 May 2015

YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Ready to go see some new movies at the cinema? ...

TOP PICK TO SEE

Top of the list this week is EX MACHINA, a sci-fi drama about a young programmer who is selected to participate in a breakthrough experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtaking female A.I. According to Empire's Dan Jolin, EX MACHINA is Stylish, elegant, tense, cerebral, satirical and creepy. Garland's directorial debut is his best work yet, while Vikander's bold performance will short your circuits. It's only in limited release so you might need to look around your city for it.

OTHERS TO SEE

KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK is an authorized documentary on the late musician Kurt Cobain, from his early days in Aberdeen, Washington to his success and downfall with the grunge band Nirvana. I have never listened to Cobain's music but am aware of his tragic end. Total Film's Kevin Harley, describes this biographical documentary as Like a Cobain mixtape brought to feral life... Montage is scruffy, sharp and insightful on an oft-explored subject. The pay-off is terribly moving - it'll drain you. Given this high praise, I may take the opportunity to see it.

CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA tells the story of a veteran actress who comes face-to-face with an uncomfortable reflection of herself when she agrees to take part in a revival of the play that launched her career 20 years earlier. It stars Juliette Binoche and Kristen Steward - and interesting combination. The Telegraph's Robbie Collin describes it as a ... a complex, bewitching and melancholy drama, another fearlessly intelligent film from Assayas.'

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT

Finally, PITCH PERFECT 2 has arrived in which, after a humiliating command performance at Lincoln Center, the Barden Bellas enter an international competition that no American group has ever won in order to regain their status and right to perform. I saw this last night with fairly low expectations (given it was a sequel) and a big crowd. It was worse than I expected. I'd give it **1/2 stars and will post my review shortly. It's getting rated as average by general audiences but no consensus has emerged from critics yet - so up to you! I don't expect positive reviews.

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, 6 May 2015

KUMIKO, THE TREASURE HUNTER (2015)

A jaded Japanese woman discovers a hidden copy of Fargo (1996) on VHS, believing it to be a treasure map indicating the location of a large case of money. - IMDB

I didn't really like this one. It's beautiful to look at, but the main character is almost completely silent through the movie, the musical score crescendos at times giving the expectation of something exciting about to happen - then it doesn't. It's one long boring story that all seems a bit pointless. There is supposed to be some cross-cultural humour but wasn't funny to me.  It's tedious and unrewarding.


Tuesday, 5 May 2015

ONE EYED GIRL (2014)


Travis, is a thirty-something psychiatrist haunted by the death of a former patient. On the brink of a nervous breakdown he stumbles across a group run by a charismatic leader, Father Jay. In search of answers, Travis is led deeper and deeper into the underworld of a Doom's Day cult where he meets Grace, a mysterious teenage girl. When the cult comes under attack from the outside world, Travis must risk his life to free a girl, and save his soul. - Written by BK (IMDB)

Made here in my home town of Adelaide, South Australia, this is an intense (and tense) psychological thriller that explores the nature of cultic seduction that preys on the despair of vulnerable people. The acting was mostly good apart from the last act when I thought that Tilda Cobham-Hervey, who plays the character of Grace, wasn't quite believable. The story is compelling and disturbing with an excellent musical score and moody cinematography. This movie has the feel of something that could have come out of Scandinavia. ONE EYED GIRL may not be in cinemas for long, so make sure you catch it. If you can't, watch out for it on video.


Saturday, 2 May 2015

NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - ST VINCENT

ST VINCENT has been released on video and I highly recommend it. Here's my review:

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



Friday, 1 May 2015

YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Three new movies arrive in cinemas this week ...

TOP PICK TO SEE


I've just returned from a screening of ONE EYED GIRL. This is a South Australian movie which tells the story of Travis, ... a thirty-something psychiatrist haunted by the death of a former patient. On the brink of a nervous breakdown he stumbles across a group run by a charismatic leader, Father Jay. In search of answers, Travis is led deeper and deeper into the underworld of a Doom's Day cult where he meets Grace, a mysterious teenage girl. When the cult comes under attack from the outside world, Travis must risk his life to free a girl, and save his soul. (Written by BK) ONE EYED GIRL is an excellent, very intense psychological thriller. I'll post my review soon - but I'd give it ****1/2. Definitely my top pick to see this week.

OTHERS TO SEE


KUMIKO: THE TREASURE HUNTER is about A jaded Japanese woman WHO discovers a hidden copy of Fargo (1996) on VHS, believing it to be a treasure map indicating the location of a large case of money. This, apparently, is a beautiful and original drama. According to The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy, Kikuchi (the lead who plays Kumiko) manages to make Kumiko interesting company no matter how far the character recedes into herself, using subtly expressive body language that would have been at home in silent movies to create a very strange self-imposed social outcast.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


Finally, there is the supernatural horror UNFRIENDED (originally entitled CYBERNATURAL). A group of online chat room friends find themselves haunted by a mysterious, supernatural force using the account of their dead friend. Audiences are rating this as average with critics slightly below that. The Dissolve's Keith Phipps says, For everything here that's new and exciting, there's much that's way too familiar. The kids are so one-dimensional and unpleasant, it's hard to care once they start dying off.... Unfriended is often more innovative than scary, too, with some memorable but not particularly chilling and hilariously foreshadowed death scenes.

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.