Thursday, 30 July 2015

SELF/LESS (2015)

A dying real estate mogul transfers his consciousness into a healthy young body, but soon finds that neither the procedure nor the company that performed it are quite what they seem. -- IMDB

Nobody seems to have liked this movie - except me. Its premise is derived from the theory of transhumanism. According to one dictionary, transhumanism is 'the belief or theory that the human race can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations, especially by means of science and technology.' The only time this theory is explicitly referred to by name in the movie is when the protagonist of the story searches Wikipedia and we see a fleeting reference to it. The potential implications of transhumanism are worked out in an intriguing sci-fi thriller with some surprising twists and turns. It's fast-paced and thought-provoking with good performances from all of the cast. Worth a look.


NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - RUN ALL NIGHT (2015)

PLOT SUMMARY: Brooklyn mobster and prolific hit man Jimmy Conlon, once known as The Gravedigger, has seen better days. Longtime best friend of mob boss Shawn Maguire, Jimmy, now 55, is haunted by the sins of his past-as well as a dogged police detective who's been one step behind Jimmy for 30 years. Lately, it seems Jimmy's only solace can be found at the bottom of a whiskey glass. But when Jimmy's estranged son, Mike, becomes a target, Jimmy must make a choice between the crime family he chose and the real family he abandoned long ago. With Mike on the run, Jimmy's only penance for his past mistakes may be to keep his son from the same fate Jimmy is certain he'll face himself?at the wrong end of a gun. Now, with nowhere safe to turn, Jimmy just has one night to figure out exactly where his loyalties lie and to see if he can finally make things right. -- ROTTEN TOMATOES

MY REVIEW: 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.


Wednesday, 29 July 2015

MAGIC MIKE XXL (2015)

Three years after Mike bowed out of the stripper life at the top of his game, he and the remaining Kings of Tampa hit the road to Myrtle Beach to put on one last blow-out performance. -- IMDB

Has to be the worst movie of the year so far. It's pointless, poorly acted, absolutely no character development, boring and superficial dialogue, gratuitous sexual allusions - a total waste of time and money. The first movie was at least average. This one truly swims at the bottom of the barrel. One strip dance was reasonably clever - at the end of the movie. But, overall, this movie is demeaning to women despite its occasional attempts to sound as if it isn't. But when men talk about exalting women and valuing them, it pretty much comes down to them being submissive sex objects. How any well known actor (and there are some in it) could put their names to such a woeful attempt at entertainment is beyond me. The whole thing is incredibly stupid. If you really need to have another dose of male stripping, go and rent the first one and watch it again - at least it had a coherent story and some decent characters.

Half a star - I rate this low so rarely I don't have an image for it!

YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Only one mainstream movie release coming to cinemas this week (along with some limited release movies), and it's a blockbuster getting good ratings. The movie is...

TOP PICK TO SEE


MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION starring, who else but, Tom Cruise, in which Ethan and team take on their most impossible mission yet, eradicating the Syndicate - an International rogue organization as highly skilled as they are, committed to destroying the IMF. Critics are calling Tom Cruise "an action star without equal" and the movie is being enjoyed by critics and general viewers alike. Empire's Ian Nathan describes Rogue Nation as being, 'Easily, almost nonchalantly, best in franchise... Rogue Nation dispenses with the dead weight of realism or relevance for state-of-the-art thrill-making in a classical mould. The series has finally found its voice.' Looking forward to seeing it!

OTHERS TO SEE


FAR FROM MEN (in limited release) is set in Algeria, 1954. Two very different men thrown together by a world in turmoil are forced to flee across the Atlas mountains. Daru, the reclusive teacher, has to escort Mohamed, a villager accused of murder. It's a deeply moving, profound story relevant for our age. Slant Magazine's Chuck Bowen says, The film often suggests a less defiant cover of The Defiant Ones, yet it's a must-see for Viggo Mortensen's characteristically wonderful performance. I will post my review of this excellent film shortly.

Another movie in limited release, NOBLE, is about Christina Noble who overcomes the harsh difficulties of her childhood in Ireland to discover her destiny on the streets of Saigon. A true story. For Washington Post's Stephanie Merry, Writer-director Stephen Bradley may make some missteps, but he capitalises on this underdog story's inherent thrills.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


Finally, another movie in limited release, MAX tells the story of a dog that helped US Marines in Afghanistan returns to the U.S. and is adopted by his handler's family after suffering a traumatic experience. Critics, generally, are not greeting this one favourably. TheWrap's Inkoo Kang warns us that, None of [the] plot points are run through with any thoughtfulness or panache. Despite a great, unaffected performance by Wiggins - the only one among the cast - and the primal joy of seeing the dog actors sprinting, leaping and maybe even emoting, the film is sunk because the characters never transcend their seeming origins in a Disney Channel movie project.

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.

MINIONS (2015)

Minions Stuart, Kevin and Bob are recruited by Scarlet Overkill, a super-villain who, alongside her inventor husband Herb, hatches a plot to take over the world. -- IMDB

The minions are cute little things, but the movie is average. Younger kids will probably enjoy it but MINIONS doesn't have much depth or cleverness. Wait for the DVD unless you really need to find a couple of hours to get the kids out of the house during the holidays.


Tuesday, 28 July 2015

MR HOLMES (2015)

An aged, retired Sherlock Holmes looks back on his life, and grapples with an unsolved case involving a beautiful woman. -- IMDB

This is a delightful little movie, done in the inimitable British style, about Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen), suffering from holes in his memory as he ages, feeling guilty about a case in which he failed. Now he wants to come to terms with it but he can't remember all the details of the case. With the help of his housekeeper's son, Roger (Milo Parker), he starts to piece the past together. The script is excellent, especially the dialogue between Holmes and Roger that explores themes of friendship and mentoring between the aged and the young. McKellen is outstanding as Holmes and Parker plays the boy very well. The cinematography of the English countryside is very pleasing on the eye. MR HOLMES is a fresh take on the Sherlock Holmes character. Overall, though, the movie is quite old-fashioned and has none of the darker aspects or emotional thrills of Holmes's character and stories found in other tellings. It's also pretty slow in pace. But it is a pleasant, undemanding piece of cinema - enjoyable.


TRAINWRECK (2015)

Having thought that monogamy was never possible, a commitment-phobic career woman may have to face her fears when she meets a good guy. -- IMDB

Amy Schumer, who is the writer, also plays Amy who is truly a train that wrecks! This movie, directed by Judd Apatow who brought us Bridesmaids, does not have the quality and sophistication of Bridesmaids.  Definitely not for those who don't like coarse language and explicit sexual humour.  Comedy today seems to have lost any subtlety. The problem is that it is not all that funny. I laughed a couple of times.  But overall, the script is pretty bland and pointless. It's hard to avoid believing that a number of the women comedians we are seeing on screen are not demeaning themselves. Pretty average.


Saturday, 25 July 2015

NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - BIG EYES (2014)

Last year's BIG EYES was a delightful surprise when I saw it at the cinema. It's '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) Here's my review:

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!


YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

There are some goodies at the cinema this week - aside from the popcorn! Here are the new movies on offer...

TOP PICK TO SEE


Top pick this week is MR HOLMES in which an aged, retired Sherlock Holmes looks back on his life, and grapples with an unsolved case involving a beautiful woman. I give this one ***1/2 stars and will post my review shortly. The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney describes it as '... a ruminative film of minor-key rewards, driven by an impeccably nuanced performance from McKellen as a solitary 93-year-old man enfeebled by age, yet still canny and even compassionate in ways that surprise and comfort him.'

OTHERS TO SEE


13 MINUTES (original title ELSER) is the breath-taking story of a man who nearly would have changed the world. 1939, when Hitler tricked millions of people at the height of his power, one said a radical No: Georg Elser, disparaged as an assassin, is one of the greatest resistance fighters.
(Written by anonymous). Breathtaking doesn't describe the move and I'll post my reasons for that in my upcoming review.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


The sci-fi thriller SELF/LESS is about a dying real estate mogul who transfers his consciousness into a healthy young body, but soon finds that neither the procedure nor the company that performed it are quite what they seem. Sounds intriguing but general viewers and critics are divided on its rating. The Playlist's Kevin Jagernauth is ruthless in his description of SELF/LESS as '... brain/less entertainment, but if there's any consolation, the impression it leaves is so fleeting that you can soon replace it with better movie memories.' General audiences, though, are rating it 3 to 3.5 stars.

TO AVOID


Finally, there is one to avoid. THE GALLOWS is set 20 years after a horrific accident during a small town school play in which students at the school resurrect the failed show in a misguided attempt to honor the anniversary of the tragedy - but soon discover that some things are better left alone. According to Screen International's John Hazelton, 'The Gallows offers up few new ideas and very few genuine scares.'

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, 23 July 2015

3D Ant-Man (2015)

Armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, cat burglar Scott Lang must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, plan and pull off a heist that will save the world. -- IMDB

Standard superhero fare, although seems targeted to a younger-than-usual audience with its PG rating. The best thing about the movie is its clean fun and sense of humour.  The special effects are excellent and it's definitely worth watching in 3D. Michael Pena is standout as far as the comedy goes with all other actors putting in great performances. Michael Douglas is great as a bitter dry man. There are also two extra scenes - one during the credits and one after the credits. So make sure you hang around to see them! Not quite up to previous Marvel spectacles, but worth a viewing - and if you have kids around 13-15, take them along too.


Saturday, 18 July 2015

NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - TOOTSIE (1982)

If you're looking for something to watch this weekend check out TOOTSIE, one of the great movies of the 1980s released in DVD this week. In TOOTSIE an unemployed actor (Dustin Hoffman) with a reputation for being difficult disguises himself as a woman to get a role in a soap opera. Check it out. It's a classic romantic comedy drama!


YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Back from Spain and back at the movies! Yet another super hero makes the screen this week.


TOP PICK TO SEE


Armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, con-man Scott Lang must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, plan and pull off a heist that will save the world. That's ANT-MAN, the tiniest hero so far. TheWrap's  Alonso Duralde says 'There are individual pieces of the movie that work wonderfully.... Unfortunately, this is also the kind of movie where talented actors do some of their least notable work.' General audiences are rating it higher than the critics at around four stars.  

OTHERS TO SEE


For those of you interested in the costume side of movies and theatre, WOMEN HE'S UNDRESSED is for you. It is a documentary about the life of the Australian costume designer and three time Oscar winner Orry-Kelly.   Another movie based on a book by John Greene (The Fault in Our Stars) has made it to the big screen. PAPER TOWNS in which a young man and his friends embark upon the road trip of their lives to find the missing girl next door. Variety's Justin Chang believes 'It may not subvert every cliche of the high-school romance genre, but director Jake Schreier's coming-of-age dramedy nonetheless pulses with moving and melancholy moments.' I suspect, if you enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars, you'll probably like this one, too.   'Life is good for ad man RUBEN GUTHRIE - he leads a party boy lifestyle, has a model fiancée and lives in a house on the water. He's at the top of his game, until some drunken skylarking lands Ruben at the bottom of his infinity pool, lucky to be alive. His mum hits the panic button, and then his fiancée leaves him, but not before issuing him one final challenge: If Ruben can do one year without a drink, she'll give him another chance... RUBEN GUTHRIE is the story of one man not only battling the bottle, but the city that won't let him put it down.' (Written by Madman Entertainment) This one's for lovers of drama romances.  

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


For those of you into horror, the next episode of the Insidious franchise has arrived for you. Insidious 3 is a prequel set before the haunting of the Lambert family that reveals how gifted psychic Elise Rainier reluctantly agrees to use her ability to contact the dead in order to help a teenage girl who has been targeted by a dangerous supernatural entity. General audiences are rating this as average and critics lower than that. According to The Playlist's Kimber Myers 'The first two films faltered in their final act, and Chapter 3 experiences some of that as well, though it never achieves their heights. There are some nice scares, but a few formerly central characters are basically forgotten in favor of wrapping things up.'

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, 8 July 2015

FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD (2015)

The story of independent, beautiful and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan), who attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), a sheep farmer, captivated by her fetching willfulness; Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge), a handsome and reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), a prosperous and mature bachelor. This timeless story of Bathsheba's choices and passions explores the nature of relationships and love - as well as the human ability to overcome hardships through resilience and perseverance. (Written by Fox Searchlight)

For those who like period drama, this a gluttonous feast for the eyes. A classic story, beautiful cinematography, great costuming, and great acting. Carey Mulligan is delightful as Bathsheba Everdene and the three men competing for her love are well cast. Michael Sheen is a standout as the agonised William Boldwood. I thoroughly enjoyed this straightforward narrative directed with a sure hand by Thomas Vinterberg (The Hunt) directs it with a sure hand.


Sunday, 5 July 2015

GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF (2015)

P
An in-depth look at the inner-workings of the Church of Scientology. -- IMDB

This documentary is a must-see eye-opener. It lays bare the inner workings of Scientology using interviews with people high up in the religion and who have left. There is also some excellent footage. This documentary is worth paying the price of a cinema ticket to see. It is very disturbing and they way that some celebrities (like Tom Cruise and John Travolta) promote Scientology even more so. A searing, impossible-to-ignore expose. Don't miss it!

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