Sunday, 29 November 2015

CREED

The former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa serves as a trainer and mentor to Adonis Johnson, the son of his late friend and former rival Apollo Creed. —IMDB

A pretty formulaic boxing movie with a punchy soundtrack that spins off from the Rocky series. Most of it is predictable — but not entirely. One particular moment in the story was unexpected — but I can’t tell you which one without spoiling the plot. The problem with boxing movies is that they seem to rely quite heavily on the boxers training - and there’s only so much of the training you can watch without getting bored. While CREED might be an adequate movie, it doesn’t reach the creativity of the recent Southpaw starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Sylvester Stallone is pretty good and exceeded my expectations. If you really like watching realistic boxing, then maybe give it a go. As a continuation of the Rocky franchise, it’s ok.

 

BY THE SEA

Set in France during the mid-1970s, Vanessa, a former dancer, and her husband Roland, an American writer, travel the country together. They seem to be growing apart, but when they linger in one quiet, seaside town they begin to draw close to some of its more vibrant inhabitants, such as a local bar/café-keeper and a hotel owner. —Production

In my weekly guide, based on public and critics’ responses to BY THE SEA, I recommended not seeing this movie. In my opinion, after seeing this movie, I think the majority are wrong. I liked BY THE SEA a lot. It won’t necessarily be appealing to everyone. But this new movie by Angelina Jolie Pitt, who wrote and directed it, is an interesting direction in her career. Acting alongside of her husband, Brad Pitt, the story is a complex exploration of love, sexual desire, female identity, grief, voyeurism, and more. It has a European feel in style and, while it moves along at a pretty languid pace, I felt fully engaged the whole time. Jolie Pitt takes some significant risks, particularly in acting the nude scenes following her double mastectomy. She has openly acknowledged that she felt anxious about doing the scenes. The acting by her and Brad Pitt is excellent. Mélanie Laurent is particularly good as the newly-wed wife in the next apartment. The cinematography is beautiful with stunning long shots of the landscape; then becoming intimate as it focuses in on the conversations and relationships of the characters. This movie is more about the internal landscapes of relationships and, for that reason, may be too slow and languid for some. But, for me, it was a powerful story and I look forward to Angelina Jolie Pitt’s next project.


SECRET IN THEIR EYES (2015)

A tight-knit team of rising investigators, along with their supervisor, is suddenly torn apart when they discover that one of their own teenage daughters has been brutally murdered. —IMDB

An average crime thriller more suited to a midday movie on TV. Even though there is an excellent cast (Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, Chiwetel Ejiofor), it is not enough to make up for a lacklustre script. Even though there are two times many years apart, Julia Roberts is the only one who ages between the two times! Apparently, the original Argentinian movie of the same name, is exceptional, winning the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2010. I’ll be checking that out on DVD — and suggest you do too.


Saturday, 28 November 2015

NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - SELF/LESS

SUMMARY: 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

MY REVIEW: 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.


Thursday, 26 November 2015

YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Believe it or not, this week’s TOP PICK to see is a Sylvester Stallone movie …

CREED is a spin-off of the Rocky Balboa movies in which he, the former World Heavyweight Champion, serves as a trainer and mentor to Adonis Johnson, the son of his late friend and former rival Apollo Creed. The critics are averaging pretty high scores on this one and general audiences are enjoying it. Variety’s Andrew Barker says that, With his “Rocky” spinoff, Creed, writer-director Ryan Coogler confirms every bit of promise he displayed in his 2013 debut, “Fruitvale Station,” offering a smart, kinetic, exhilaratingly well-crafted piece of mainstream filmmaking, and providing actor Michael B. Jordan with yet another substantial stepping stone on his climb to stardom.

OTHERS TO SEE
The story of the now infamous Lance Armstrong is told in THE PROGRAM, a drama in which an Irish sports journalist becomes convinced that Lance Armstrong's performances during the Tour de France victories are fuelled by banned substances. With this conviction, he starts hunting for evidence that will expose Armstrong. According to CineVue, It must be said that Foster - who adhered to the actual doping program during filming - excels as Armstrong. Bearing an unnerving physical resemblance to the fallen cycling hero, he is a revelation in a remarkable tour de force — not France — performance. Sounds like the actor may be the best part of the movie as both critics and general viewers are rating it around average.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT
With the holiday season around the corner, it’s time for some new kids animations to hit the screens. HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2 has arrived. In this episode, Dracula and his friends try to bring out the monster in his half human, half vampire grandson in order to keep Mavis from leaving the hotel.’ Boston Globe’s Tom Russo is scathing — For the haters out there, you could see where Sandler reprising his role as a cartoon Dracula in Hotel Transylvania 2 might just be the perfect metaphor: Yep, there he goes again, evilly sucking the lifeblood out of decent entertainment. Now come on, let's grab the torches!

TO AVOID
A couple of movies to avoid this week if the ratings are anything to go by. First is LOVE THE COOPERS starring Diane Keaton and John Goodman. When four generations of the Cooper clan come together for their annual Christmas Eve celebration, a series of unexpected visitors and unlikely events turn the night upside down, leading them all toward a surprising rediscovery of family bonds and the spirit of the holiday. For The Hollywood Reporter’s Jon Frosch, it’s A Christmas comedy of numbing tedium and tackiness. Stay away from this one!

Finally, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s long awaited BY THE SEA opens this week. Set in France during the mid-1970s, Vanessa, a former dancer (Angelina Jolie Pitt), and her husband Roland (Brad Pitt), an American writer, travel the country together. They seem to be growing apart, but when they linger in one quiet, seaside town they begin to draw close to some of its more vibrant inhabitants, such as a local bar/café-keeper and a hotel owner.’ (Written by Production) The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy reports that There's no catharsis at the end from the journey taken, just relief that it's over. Getting low scores so think twice about checking it out!

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. These updates are written from an Australian perspective so openings of the movies in cinemas may vary in other parts of the world.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

COMING SOON - PHOENIX - Opens December 3

A disfigured concentration-camp survivor (Nina Hoss), unrecognizable after facial reconstruction surgery, searches ravaged postwar Berlin for the husband (Ronald Zehrfeld) who might have betrayed her to the Nazis. —IMDB

An intriguing story but contrived and it’s difficult to suspend belief. It’s quite slow but pretty engaging and the twist at the end is very satisfying. Nina Hoss is excellent as Nelly, the concentration-camp survivor. The best way to understand this movie is, according to some, not to take it literally. That may help to overlook the manufactured plot line. Some have suggested that it is an allegory — I’ll leave viewers to decide that for themselves. Very atmospheric and explores some complex themes. A fresh take on post-Holocaust survival.


99 HOMES

A father struggles to get back the home that his family was evicted from by working for the greedy real estate broker who's the source of his frustration. —IMDB

99 HOMES started off very intensely, lagged in the middle, then ended with an edge-of-the-seat moment. The story is very contemporary, based on the experiences of many people in America during the global financial crisis, who lost their homes. The father in the movie, played by Andrew Garfield, faces increasingly complex moral dilemmas as he engages in many of the behaviours that were used to evict him from his own house. The acting is very good from all cast with Michael Shannon, the real estate agent who evicts the father and his family, putting in an intensely good performance. In fact, the acting is the best aspect of the movie with the two main protagonists going head-to-head for the whole film. The tension in the story is a situational tension rather than special effects, eerie music, or any of the other techniques used to manipulate our emotions. 99 HOMES is straightforward storytelling with a great script. It’s disappointing the middle is so repetitive and drawn out — it requires some patience — But the climax is definitely worth the wait. 99 HOMES is a movie with substance and takes a compassionate look at the incredible suffering people undergo as a result of the greed of others.


Saturday, 21 November 2015

THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 2

As the war of Panem escalates to the destruction of other districts by the Capitol, Katniss Everdeen, the reluctant leader of the rebellion, must bring together an army against President Snow, while all she holds dear hangs in the balance. --IMDB

Except for the last few minutes, a thoroughly satisfying conclusion to The Hunger Games series of movies. Jennifer Lawrence is wonderful, as usual, and dominates the entire movie — with all of the supporting cast putting in good performances. This final episode is very, very bleak but the direction is tight and the plotting paced well. There are some pretty deep themes explored and yet it never loses its entertainment value. The cinematography is vivid and there is an incredibly intense horror scene in the middle. Taking the edge of the movie is the rather soppy last few minutes — it should have finished when … (I’m not telling you that!!). If you’ve seen the previous episodes you are definitely want to see this one — and it’s great in 3D! Check it out!


Thursday, 19 November 2015

YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

You guessed it — this week’s TOP PICK to see is …

THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 2! In this final instalment of the Hunger Games, as the war of Panem escalates to the destruction of other districts by the Capitol, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), the reluctant leader of the rebellion, must bring together an army against President Snow (Donald Sutherland), while all she holds dear hangs in the balance. Entertainment Weekly’s Leah Greenblatt say that, With its political power struggles and prodigious body count, all rendered in a thousand shades of wintry greige, the movie feels less like teen entertainment than a sort of Hunger Games of Thrones. I’m seeing it tonight and can’t wait! Will post my review asap!

OTHERS TO SEE


In 99 HOMES, a father struggles to get back the home that his family was evicted from by working for the greedy real estate broker who's the source of his frustration. HitFix assesses it this way: Other than the unsubtle but vivid storytelling, the main joy of 99 Homes is seeing two excellent but very different actors spark off each other for almost the entire runtime, in a brace of performances both brilliant and brilliantly matched. Looks like it will be a worthwhile drama to check out.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


Terry Jones, who wrote, directed and acted in many of the Monty Python films returns with ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING, a comedy sci-fi in which a group of eccentric aliens confer a human being with the power to do absolutely anything, as an experiment. While the general public are rating this around 3 stars, the critics don’t like it on bit. The Hollywood Reporter’s Stephen Dalton describes it as … a flabby misfire full of labored slapstick, broad caricatures and groaningly absurd plot twists. And Screen International’s Fionnuala Halligan says it is [A] depressingly inept comedy. Are you going to go with the general public or the critics?

TO AVOID


Finally, and very disappointingly, SECRET IN THEIR EYES, which looked good in the trailers, is one to avoid this week. In this mystery thriller, a tight-knit team of rising investigators, along with their supervisor, is suddenly torn apart when they discover that one of their own teenage daughters has been brutally murdered. Movie Nation’s Roger Moore wonders whether Perhaps some of the same flaws lay beneath the surface of the original film, but the distraction of subtitles helped hide them. Here, they're gaping holes knock “Secret” off the tracks long before it's far-fetched twist ending. The original that Moore refers to is the Argentinian movie The Secret in Their Eyes which won the Best Foreign Language Film of the Year at the Oscars in 2010. Perhaps it might be better to watch the original which is available on Apple iTunes, Amazon Video, Vudu, and Sony Entertainment.

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. These updates are written from an Australian perspective so openings of the movies in cinemas may vary in other parts of the world.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

5 TO 7

An aspiring novelist enters into a relationship with a woman, though there's just one catch: She's married, and the couple can only meet between the hours of 5 and 7 each evening. --IMDB

In many respects, this was an intriguing little movie. In fact, it improved the further into the story it travelled. It raises some interesting ethical issues about certain types of marriages, the relationship between sex and love, and the illusion that an affair can be indulged in without serious consequences -- at least for one party. The problem with the movie is that there isn't much chemistry between the leads and the dialogue felt stilted, even though the script itself is quite smart when it explores ideas. There is an old-fashioned feel to it even thought the issues are quite contemporary. It's worth watching if you're looking for something a bit different in the "romance" genre and there is no doubt it is provocative. Check it out on DVD when it becomes available.





Saturday, 14 November 2015

SPECTRE

A cryptic message from Bond's past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organisation. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE. —IMDB

I love the latest style of Bond movies (Casino Royale, SkyFall) and SPECTRE is just as good as previous episodes. Daniel Craig puts in his usual excellent performance as Bond and Christoph Waltz makes a worthy villain. The story is intricately plotted and Lèa Seydoux is a standout as Madeleine Swann. There’s plenty of action and thrills and the story moves along at a good pace with considerable intelligence. As we’ve come to expect, the opening sequence is breathtaking. Direction is tight, scenery is good to look at, there’s some clever humour — the whole thing is mesmerising. A great addition to the Bond canon. Will look forward to seeing it again at the earliest opportunity!


Friday, 13 November 2015

NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - INSIDE OUT

SUMMARY: 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

MY REVIEW: 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. Highly recommended.


YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

At last, the new James Bond movie has come to our screens …

TOP PICK TO SEE


Daniel Craig returns as James Bond in SPECTRE. The story, this time, is about a cryptic message from Bond's past that sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organisation. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE. Christopher Waltz plays the villain this time around. Time Out London’s Tom Huddleston describes it as, ‘An unbalanced but never less than entertaining film, enthralling and deflating in roughly equal measure, and studded with moments of true, old-school glory.’ I thought it was great and will post my review shortly.

OTHERS TO SEE


The documentary HE NAMED ME MALALA  takes a look at the events leading up to the Taliban's attack on Pakistani schoolgirl, Malala Yousafzai, for speaking out on girls' education followed by the aftermath, including her speech to the United Nations. The Guardian’s Catherine Shoard is disappointed that ‘Guggenheim largely dodges lodging her story within a greater political context; a choice, but a shame, for when he does, the movie gains tension.’ An important story to see even if the documentary overall isn’t great.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


Natalie Portman and Christian Bale team up in KNIGHT OF CUPS about a screenwriter living in LA who tries to make sense of the strange events occurring around him. This one looks like it will be challenging viewing. Time Out London’s Dave Calhoun warns us to ‘… not kid ourselves: cast-iron interpretations of Malick's recent filmmaking are risky. It's also a matter of taste. You either slip into the pretty, dreamlike, wistful groove of his later films or you don't, and even hardened arthouse film lovers may find Knight of Cups way out of their comfort zone.’

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. These updates are written from an Australian perspective so openings of the movies in cinemas may vary in other parts of the world.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE

Three scouts, on the eve of their last camp-out, discover the true meaning of friendship when they attempt to save their town from a zombie outbreak. --IMDB

A completely over-the-top, gory, limb-severing zombie comedy horror crossed with a teen sex comedy. When evaluating this movie, one needs to remember that it is made for teens and is totally tongue-in-cheek. It has everything: violence, sex, coarse language, horror -- everything except drugs which is surprising given comedians' seeming obsession with them. There are some very funny moments but it doesn't always deliver. It's not that scary -- it's too mad for that. But there are a few shocks. The special effects are pretty rough, but that just adds to the ridiculous nature of the whole thing. It's completely mindless whacky fun which definitely earns its mature audience rating. And there is definitely a positive message in the story.



Thursday, 5 November 2015

YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Romantic comedy heads the list this week …

TOP PICK TO SEE


MAN UP is the story of a single woman who's mistaken for a stranger's blind date, and which leads to her finding the perfect boyfriend. MAN UP is delightfully fresh romantic comedy. Total Film’s Jamie Graham suggests that, while MAN UP is, Not up there with key US influences "Annie Hall," "When Harry Met Sally" and "Jerry Maguire," but a romcom Brits can be proud of. Make a date of it. I thoroughly enjoyed it. You can read my review here.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


Most of the other movies are in the maybe/maybe not category this week. First is the French romantic comedy drama, 5 TO 7, in which an aspiring novelist enters into a relationship with a woman, though there's just one catch: She's married, and the couple can only meet between the hours of 5 and 7 each evening. General audiences are rating this as about average but critics not so highly. The A.V. Club’s Mike D'Angelo says, It's a movie to be mildly enjoyed and then left behind - apropos [appropriate], given the subject matter.

Next is SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE. This is a teen comedy horror about three scouts who, on the eve of their last camp-out, discover the true meaning of friendship when they attempt to save their town from a zombie outbreak. Slant Magazine’s Eric Henderson describes The flick [as] an artless, puerile shadow of the likes of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg's Cornetto trilogy. Maybe so, but I thought it was good fun. I’ll post my review soon.

Finally, in this category, is FREEHOLD which is based on a true story when New Jersey police lieutenant, Laurel Hester, and her registered domestic partner, Stacie Andree, both battle to secure Hester's pension benefits when she is diagnosed with terminal cancer. This is another one where the general public rates it as average and the critics around 2.5 stars. Hitfix’s Gregory Ellwood complains that, An impressive cast and significant real-life events can't trump the fact it's a badly made movie. I’m a fan of Ellen Page (Inception, Juno, Hard Candy) so I’ll be giving this a go. I’ll let you know what I think after I have seen it.

TO AVOID


One movie to avoid this week — NOW ADD HONEY — a comedy of normal life imploding for a suburban family when their pop-star cousin comes to stay. It’s rating around less than 2.5 stars by the general viewer — and they usually rate a bit higher than the critics! 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. These updates are written from an Australian perspective so openings of the movies in cinemas may vary in other parts of the world.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

MAN UP

A single woman who's mistaken for a stranger's blind date, leads to her finding the perfect boyfriend. — IMDB

Great fun! The structure of the story is predictable, but the characters and humour are fresh, making this one of the best romantic comedies I’ve seen for a while. Simon Pegg (Jack) and Lake Bell (Nancy) are excellent actors, delivering their lines with impeccable timing. They have great chemistry on screen and the supporting cast are all good. There are some very funny moments in this lighthearted movie. The cinematography is sharp and there are some great scenes of London, the location for the story. The dialogue is fast and the story moves along at a great pace. A delightful entry to the rom-com genre — and a good candidate for a date night.


Sunday, 1 November 2015

MISTRESS AMERICA

A lonely college freshman's life is turned upside down by her impetuous, adventurous soon-to-be stepsister. —IMDB

Very hit and miss. Lola Kirke, who plays Tracey, the Greta Gerwig character’s friend, is the outstanding actor in the movie and keeps it grounded. The story makes some witty observations of modern youth culture but the whole thing is too fast paced and all over the place — too many ideas too quickly. The story has no clear structure even though there is a thin backbone of a narrative. Mildly entertaining.