Monday, 29 June 2015

LOVE & MERCY

In the 1960s, Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson struggles with emerging psychosis as he attempts to craft his avant-garde pop masterpiece. In the 1980s, he is a broken, confused man under the 24-hour watch of shady therapist Dr. Eugene Landy. -- IMDB

Found this one to be quite disjointed, although that does reflect the nature of Wilson's life. The acting is good (except, perhaps, for Paul Giamatti's portrayal of Eugene Landy which seemed a bit over the top) and the structure of the story, as we watch the younger Wilson alongside the later one, helps to draw links from his early life and what happens to him later. It's a tragic, depressing story, even though Wilson still writes and performs today. He has been exploited and abused by those he should have been able to trust. This is not a mainstream movie so watch it if you have a particular interest in in knowing more about Wilson and his relationship to the Beach Boys.


Friday, 26 June 2015

NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - AMERICAN SNIPER (2014)

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

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



Thursday, 25 June 2015

YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Slim pickings this week...  


TOP PICK TO SEE


Top of the very average list of movies this week is LOVE & MERCY. In the 1960s, Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson struggles with emerging psychosis as he attempts to craft his avant-garde pop masterpiece. In the 1980s, he is a broken, confused man under the 24-hour watch of shady therapist Dr. Eugene Landy. The Hollywood Reporter's John DeFore describes it as 'A deeply satisfying pop biopic whose subject's bifurcated creative life lends itself to an unconventional structure.' I'll post my review shortly.  


OTHERS TO SEE


The Thomas Hardy classic, FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD has arrived on screen. In Victorian England, the independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer; Frank Troy, a reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood, a prosperous and mature bachelor. I haven't read the book, but the trailers look beautiful. Total Film praises it as 'Fresh enough to engage newcomers, respectful enough to appease scholars, this is - for genre fans - pure period-drama porn.' So, for all you lovers of period drama, this one's for you! I'll see you at the cinema!  


MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


I didn't think the first Ted movie was very good, and I doubt TED 2 will be any good either. In fact, most sequels are usually worse. In this one, Newlywed couple Ted and Tami-Lynn want to have a baby, but in order to qualify to be a parent, Ted will have to prove he's a person in a court of law. Chicago Sun-Times's Richard Roeper supports my expectations when he says Ted 2 feels like far too many other sequels: born of box office expectations more than a bona fide reason to return to the characters we loved the first time around. See it if you really must.

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, 23 June 2015

INSIDE OUT (2015)

After young Riley is uprooted from her Midwest life and moved to San Francisco, her emotions - Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness - conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school. -- IMDB

This latest animation from Pixar is inspired. The story is intelligent and deals with some deep issues about human memory, the way humans think, and the role emotions play in the way humans experience and navigate the world. The story explores all of this through the eyes of a young girl from birth to puberty and every detail resonates. I've seen the movie twice now and noticed even more nuances the second time around. There are multiple layers to the story so that all ages are catered for. There is a delightful mixture of humour along with gentle expressions of depression and despair common to all of humanity. The story is true to life and is a refreshing change from some of the trite "positive" messages in children's animation. The animation is beautiful and playful. For it's relatively short running time (94 mins), a lot is packed in. I've seen INSIDE OUT in both 3D and 2D - and it works effectively in both. So there is no need to spend extra money on 3D if you don't want to. You won't lose much at all. Highly recommended.


Saturday, 20 June 2015

JURASSIC WORLD (2015)

Twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park, Isla Nublar now features a fully functioning dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World, as originally envisioned by John Hammond. After 10 years of operation and visitor rates declining, in order to fulfill a corporate mandate, a new attraction is created to re-spark visitors' interest, which backfires horribly. -- IMDB

The only reason I'm giving JURASSIC WORLD 3 stars is because the dinosaurs are stunning and the actions sequences tension-packed. But the story has nothing new and is cliched and predictable. If you are going to see it, see it in 3D to get the most benefit from the visuals.


YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

There's some good cinema viewing on offer this week...

TOP PICK TO SEE


Top of the list to see this week is the brilliant INSIDE OUT. After young Riley is uprooted from her Midwest life and moved to San Francisco, her emotions - Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness - conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school. I've seen this and rate it ****1/2. I'll post my review shortly. In the meantime, I agree with Variety's Peter Debruge who observes that, 'In execution, Pixar's 15th feature proves to be the greatest idea the toon studio has ever had: a stunningly original concept that will not only delight and entertain the company's massive worldwide audience, but also promises to forever change the way people think about the way people think, delivering creative fireworks grounded by a wonderfully relatable family story.' Make sure you see it in 3D and with your school-age kids.

OTHERS TO SEE


The long-awaited (at least for me) documentary called GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF has finally arrived on our screens. An in-depth look at the inner-workings of the Church of Scientology. New York Magazine (Vulture)'s Bilge Ebiri thinks
'Gibney's a bit like a kid in an exposé-candy store here, and you can sense him trying to cram as much as he can into the film. Good for him: Going Clear is jaw-dropping. You wouldn't really want it any other way.' I'll post my review shortly.

Finally, a Chinese family drama, THE NIGHTINGALE, the story of an old man and his grand-daughter, who walk together through China with a bird in a cage. Apparently it has a good story and beautiful scenes of rural/village China.

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, 16 June 2015

STRANGERLAND (2015)

A family finds their dull life in a rural outback town rocked after their two teenage children disappear into the desert, sparking disturbing rumors of their past. -- IMDB

Absolutely brilliant! One of the best Australian movies I've seen. Let's start with the acting. Nicole Kidman, the mother of the family whose children goes missing, is outstanding. Her acting is nuanced, emotional, and courageous. One of the best performances I think she has done. Hugo Weaving, the police officer investigating the disappearance, puts in a strong performance. The characters develop beautifully across the course of the narrative. The small isolated rural community, described by one of the children as a "shit hole", is atmospheric and is almost its own character in the story. The cinematography is stunning with an oppressiveness that supports and strengthens the mood of the story. The soundtrack supports the narrative with everything working together to perfectly engage the audience and draw us into the depressive, tense, intriguing plot. STRANGERLAND is, in my opinion, an almost perfect movie. It's intriguing, thought-provoking, haunting, and superbly nuanced. I can't believe this one is not being promoted in mainstream cinema. And I can't believe so many critics are rating it so low. Gripping stuff. Don't miss it!


Thursday, 11 June 2015

YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Time to head of to the cinema for some new entertainment.

TOP PICK TO SEE

Top of the list to see this week is JURASSIC WORLD. Twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park, Isla Nublar now features a fully functioning dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World, as originally envisioned by John Hammond. After 10 years of operation and visitor rates declining, in order to fulfill a corporate mandate, a new attraction is created to re-spark visitor's interest, which backfires horribly. I'm not sure we'll get much more than the first movie, but if it's more of the same and well done, then it could be entertaining. The New York Daily News says that, 'For much of its running time, Jurassic World plays like a great theme park ride. In an age of blockbusters that lumber like herbivores, it's refreshing to see a movie as lean and mean as a velociraptor.'

OTHERS TO SEE

Inspired by real events, THE MAFIA ONLY KILLS IN SUMMER is a black comedy about 20 years of history of Sicily from 1970s to 1990s, mocking Mafia Bosses and restoring the generosity of the heroes of Antimafia. Its focused on Arturo, a young boy who grows up in Palermo and tries to conquer his beloved Flora. The Hollywood Reporter's Stephen Dalton describes it as heavy-handed in places ... [but] is a generally charming and engrossing debut feature.' Nicole Kidman and Joseph Fiennes star in this psychological thriller in which a family finds their dull life in a rural outback town rocked after their two teenage children disappear into the desert, sparking disturbing rumors of their past. The trailer for this one looks intriguing and intense. Definitely on my list to see. THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES is documentary that takes a look at the growing disparity between different economic classes. It's presented by Russell Brand (Arthur, Get Him to the Greek).

TO AVOID

One to definitely avoid this week - which is disappointing given that Reese Witherspoon is one of the stars. An uptight and by-the-book cop (Witherspoon) tries to protect the outgoing widow of a drug boss as they race through Texas pursued by crooked cops and murderous gunmen. According to The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy, 'The film is essentially nothing but little and ineffectual bits of recycled shtick with no sense of freshness of invention. And the women never bond in even the most rote or superficial way that's expected in this sort of claptrap.' It's averaging around 1.5 stars for critics and about the same for general viewers. Give it a miss. 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, 10 June 2015

SLOW WEST (2015)

A young Scottish man travels across America in pursuit of the woman he loves, attracting the attention of an outlaw who is willing to serve as a guide. -- IMDB

A western with a difference! I thoroughly enjoyed this fresh look at the American West through the eyes of a Scottish man (boy, really) who naively sets out to find his true love who has left Scotland because she is accused of murder. Kodi Smit-McPhee is excellent as Jay Cavendish who is "escorted" through the harsh wilderness by Silas Selleck, played superbly by Michael Fassbender. The story is wonderfully unpredictable, shot through with humour. The cinematography is beautiful and the direction is tightly controlled. There are two particularly dramatic, superbly choreographed set pieces that are full of tension. Excellent and highly recommended.


Tuesday, 9 June 2015

ALOHA (2015)

A celebrated military contractor returns to the site of his greatest career triumphs and reconnects with a long-ago love while unexpectedly falling for the hard-charging Air Force watch-dog assigned to him. -- IMDB

Below average but better than expected. The relationship between the two main protagonists, played by Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone, didn't quite gel. The casting of Emma Stone as a 1/4 Hawaiian has created significant controversy because of the assertion by many that she doesn't look anything like a Hawaiian. The cast has some well known names including Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, and Alec Baldwin. They've done the best they can with the somewhat meandering and sentimental script but, overall, it is not a great movie. The scenery of Hawaii is good - as would be expected. It's pleasant but uncompelling.


Monday, 8 June 2015

3D SAN ANDREAS (2015)

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 daughter. -- IMDB

The short review would be: Great 3D action sequences. Story crap! The longer review is: I felt like I was back in the '70s watching a poor version of the disaster movies we saw back then. The cinematography and action sequences were suspenseful and thrilling. There's a good cast. But the story was incredibly cliched and, when I saw the American flag waving in slow motion at the end with the final words from Emma ('What do we do now?') and Ray: 'We rebuild') I cringed. The story is so bad that the rest of it doesn't matter. And the action sequences become so over the top they are unbelievable. Despite all the destruction, there is no real focus on the human loss following an earthquake - even more obvious given the shocking loss of life in the Nepal earthquake recently. Don't bother with this one.



Sunday, 7 June 2015

PARTISAN (2015)

Alexander who, raised to see the world through Gregori's eyes, is starting to think for himself. --IMDB

As you can see, the IMDB description wasn't very informative. But I went to see it anyway. The story is essentially about a young boy (Alexander) who is brought up in a strange community of women, cared for, and controlled, by a charismatic assassin (Gregori, played by Vincent Cassell). Gregori trains Alexander (along with a number of other boys) in assassination, in return for shelter and food. As Alexander grows older, he begins to see what is happening for himself and doubts the integrity of Gregori.

Despite being an Australian movie it has a very European feel. In fact, until the credits, I had no inkling that it was an Australian movie. There is much about the movie to like. The mood is unsettling. The cinematography is good. The acting on the part of Jeremy Chabriel is amazing given what, I believe, is his first movie role. Unfortunately, despite all the good, PARTISAN just doesn't make it. It is incredibly slow and boring with a weak narrative that is unengaging. Without doubt, this director is worth watching as his filmmaking develops. And PARTISAN shows there is probably great things to come.


Saturday, 6 June 2015

NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - STILL ALICE (2014)

A linguistics professor and her family find their bonds tested when she is diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. -- IMDB

MY REVIEW: STILL ALICE is 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.


Wednesday, 3 June 2015

YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES (4 JUNE 2015)

It's a terrible week for new cinema releases this week.

TOP PICK TO SEE


There's only one movie that comes anywhere near to being a top pick this week. It's SLOW WEST, an action/thriller/western that tells the story of a young Scottish man who travels across America in pursuit of the woman he loves, attracting the attention of an outlaw who is willing to serve as a guide. It's rating just above average with general audiences and critics. For New York Magazine (Vulture)'s Bilge Ebiri, ...Slow West never quite settles on a tone to call its own, [but] it does still offer many pleasures. Fassbender and Smit-McPhee are excellent - the boy's outward bewilderment and unpreparedness play off well against the cowboy's ragged, stone-faced charisma. It's in limited release so you might need to find a cinema showing it.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


ENTOURAGE is for all you out there who have watched the HBO series of the same name. Movie star Vincent Chase, together with his boys Eric, Turtle, and Johnny, are back - and back in business with super agent-turned-studio head Ari Gold on a risky project that will serve as Vince's directorial debut. General viewers are averaging around 4 stars - one assumes they are fans of the show. Critics are averaging about 1.5 stars! TheWrap's Alonso Duralde says that Piven's Ari is so over-the-top in his narcissism and megalomania that he's fun to watch, but the other lead characters are the kind of bros who should be having drinks thrown in their faces on a regular basis. I might be giving this one a miss. But if you see it, let us know what you think.

TO AVOID


One movie to avoid this week - ALOHA. Starring Bradley Cooper and Rachel McAdams, it's the story of a celebrated military contractor who returns to the site of his greatest career triumphs and re-connects with a long-ago love while unexpectedly falling for the hard-charging Air Force watchdog assigned to him. It might have two good actors and premise, but according to those who have already seen it, it is bad! Time Out New York's David Ehrlich describes it this way: The film is cut together with the haphazard feel of a posthumously completed record, its ungainly structure a macrocosm of the awkwardness with which the individual scenes are Frankensteined together into a lumbering monster built from close-ups and music cues. The director  has also been strongly criticised for casting Emma Stone as a Chinese-Hawaiian who doesn't look like one. If you'd like to read more about this, check out this Sydney Morning Herald article.

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.

TOMORROWLAND (2015)

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. -- IMDB

TOMORROWLAND has a very strong message about the environment and, at times, gets a bit too preachy about it. But, overall, an enjoyable story headed by George Clooney (who will be a great draw card!) and Britt Robinson (The Longest Ride). It's a Disney production and, in some ways, Disney returns to its classic form of storytelling for this one - it keeps the violence to a minimum and is suitable for family viewing (except, perhaps, for real little ones). TOMORROWLAND is visually stunning with well choreographed action and thought-provoking story.


Monday, 1 June 2015

SPY (2015)

A desk-bound CIA analyst volunteers to go undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer, and prevent diabolical global disaster. -- IMDB

An amusing action comedy starring Melissa McCarthy, Jude Law, Jason Statham and Rose Byrne. Great casting and some clever comedy. Great to see that women predominantly carry this one. Some of the action scenes are excellent. It's just all-round good fun.