Thursday, 31 December 2015

JOY

Joy is the story of the title character, who rose to become founder and matriarch of a powerful family business dynasty. —IMDB

Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Joy, makes this movie worth seeing. Her performance is excellent, as usual, and the rest of the cast are great in their supporting roles. The story is pretty straightforward and the script is ok although it jumps around quite a bit — it is just that it feels long and rather bland apart from a few highlights. The best of these highlights is when Joy is interacting with her family. These scenes are quirky and outrageous and lots of fun. JOY is a true rags to riches story with some significance. But, ultimately, it doesn’t fulfil its potential.


YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Happy New Year to all you movie lovers! It’s pretty confusing, at the moment, working out when new release movies are starting because cinemas are opening movies on public holidays. So check your cinema for times for the following new movies this week.

TOP PICK


Top pick this week goes to THE PEANUTS MOVIE in which Snoopy embarks upon his greatest mission as he and his team take to the skies to pursue their arch-nemesis, while his best pal Charlie Brown begins his own epic quest back home to win the love of his life. It’s been nominated for Best Motion Picture — Animated at this year’s Golden Globes and looks like it is being enjoyed by general viewers. Critics are averaging around 3 to 3.5 stars. For Village Voice’s Alan Scherstuhl, What's surprising - even wondrous - is how often Schulz's precisely crooked line work informs the big-budget gloss.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


There’s an episode of the TV series, Sherlock popping up in some cinemas on January 2 — and often only for one showing. So if you want to see it, check your cinema’s times. It’s called THE ABOMINABLE BRIDE. That’s all I know about it so if you catch it, let us all know what you think of it.

TO AVOID


One to avoid this week. POINT BREAK is a story about a young FBI agent who infiltrates an extraordinary team of extreme sports athletes he suspects of masterminding a string of unprecedented, sophisticated corporate heists. "Point Break" is inspired by the classic 1991 hit. It’s not getting good scores. According to Movie Nation’s Roger Moore, The casting does the film few favors. Ramirez is charismatic, but has none of Patrick Swayze's mad twinkle. It's a humorless film that makes you go “Wow” more than it involves you. Looks like it’s more about the cinematography than anything else. 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.

Monday, 28 December 2015

MY TOP MOVIES OF 2015

It's time to reflect back on 2015 and remember the best movies of the year. Everyone will have different choices... Here are my top 10. Click each title to read my review:
  1. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
  2. SICARIO
  3. YOUTH
  4. THE GIFT
  5. SPECTRE
  6. HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 2
  7. STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
  8. EX MACHINA
  9. GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF
  10. STRANGERLAND
What are your favourites? Let us know in the comments below.

See you at the movies!

Thursday, 24 December 2015

NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - SOUTHPAW

SUMMARY: Boxer Billy Hope turns to trainer Tick Wills to help him get his life back on track after losing his wife in a tragic accident and his daughter to child protection services. — IMDB

MY REVIEW: Enjoyable and frequently compelling drama that takes the viewer on an emotional rollercoaster ride. Jake Gyllenhaal, who plays Billy Hope, is brilliant. He has clearly put his heart and soul into this role and is totally believable. Oona Laurence delivers a mature performance as his daughter. SOUTHPAW's central story is of Billy Hope recovering from rock bottom having lost his wife, child, career, and respect. This part of the story is bracketed by two intense, emotionally charged, thrilling boxing acts which provide a great sense of balance and resolution. The story explores redemption, love, family, and the choice between anger and self-discipline as ways of living. There's a driving, powerful soundtrack that supports the gritty story, particularly in the first and third acts. It's a touch slow in the middle and occasionally cliched, but overall SOUTHPAW is a satisfying piece of entertainment because of Gyllenhaal's presence on the screen. For those who love a good, dramatic boxing movie, this is a must see. For others, it's still worth spending a couple of hours with this inspirational, uplifting, if somewhat predictable story.


Wednesday, 23 December 2015

YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES (RELEASING ON BOXING DAY!)

Have you recovered from Star Wars: The Force Awakens yet? Apart from that movie, there hasn’t been much released lately. But Boxing Day brings all new movies to our screens. Here’s what will be releasing on December 26…

TOP PICK


My top pick for Boxing Day is YOUTH in which a retired orchestra conductor (Michael Caine) is on holiday with his daughter (Rachel Weisz) and his film director best friend (Harvey Keitel) in the Alps when he receives an invitation from Queen Elizabeth II to perform for Prince Philip's birthday. Here’s my review (previously posted): It’s a thought-provoking movie about ageing, grief, regret, friendship, father-daughter relationships and how one finds peace and happiness in life — if that’s possible. Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel are excellent as best friends exploring their past lives and what it means to grow older together. And the supporting cast puts in excellent performances. It’s emotionally rich and tender with the gorgeous cinematography providing surprising perspectives on familiar, everyday happenings. Thoroughly enjoyable. 

OTHERS TO SEE


Another one for the kids (actually opening on Xmas Day) is the animated adventure comedy THE GOOD DINOSAUR. In a world where dinosaurs and humans live side-by-side, an Apatosaurus named Arlo makes an unlikely human friend. The trailers look cute. Entertainment Weekly’s Chris Nashawaty says that, While the story attempts the moves that a Pixar film typically makes-nonverbal storytelling, death, a bittersweet ending-most of The Good Dinosaur's punches land soft, made worse by the disconnect that exists between the overly cartoonish style of the characters and the photorealistic landscapes.

SUFFRAGETTE (also opening on Xmas Day) tells the story of the foot soldiers of the early feminist movement, women who were forced underground to pursue a dangerous game of cat and mouse with an increasingly brutal State. I’ve heard good things about this movie although critics are mostly rating it as average. Screen International’s Fionnuala Halligan suggests that Suffragette's strength lies in the fact that, even though some of the characters and events depicted seem archetypal, and they're certainly composites, they turn out to be more than that. I’d suggest this one is not to be missed.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


TRUMBO looks like it will be in limited release but could be worth catching up with it. In 1947, Dalton Trumbo was Hollywood's top screenwriter, until he and other artists were jailed and blacklisted for their political beliefs. It was a very significant time in history. As Variety’s Peter Debruge reminds us, Trumbo may be clumsy and overly simplistic at times, but it's still an important reminder of how democracy can fail (that is, when a fervent majority turns on those with different and potentially threatening values), and the strength of character it takes to fight the system. If I can find it to watch, I’ll post a review.

THE B√ČLIER FAMILY is a French comedy drama about a girl who lives with her deaf parents and discovers that she has the gift of singing. So expect some music as well!

I’ve been waiting for JOY to arrive for a long time. It’s finally here but reviews by critics rate it pretty low. Joy is the story of a family across four generations and the woman (Jennifer Lawrence) who rises to become founder and matriarch of a powerful family business dynasty. According to Screen International’s Tim Grierson, The improvisational flair, unpredictable tonal shifts and overt emotional lurches that highlighted American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook are here less consistently inspired and affecting, resulting in a heartfelt fairy tale that only soars in spurts. I don’t care. Jennifer Lawrence is in it so I’m going to see it!

DADDY’S HOME pairs Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg in a story where a mild-mannered radio executive (Ferrell) strives to become the best stepdad to his wife's two children, but complications ensue when their freewheeling and freeloading real father (Wahlberg) arrives, forcing him to compete for the affection of the kids. The general public are rating this slightly above average and I wouldn’t expect much more than that.

TO AVOID


One to avoid this week — ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE ROAD CHIP. Through a series of misunderstandings, Alvin, Simon and Theodore come to believe that Dave is going to propose to his new girlfriend in Miami...and dump them. They have three days to get to him and stop the proposal, saving themselves not only from losing Dave but possibly from gaining a terrible stepbrother. I’d find an hour and a half of having to listen to these creatures very painful. The Hollywood Reporter’s Michael Rechtshaffen says it’s No less noisy, obnoxious or just plain groan-inducing than the previous installments. Give it a miss!

That's it for this week. See you at the movies! And have a great Xmas and New Year!

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, 22 December 2015

YOUTH (opens on Boxing Day)

A retired orchestra conductor is on holiday with his daughter and his film director best friend in the Alps when he receives an invitation from Queen Elizabeth II to perform for Prince Philip's birthday. —IMDB

A thought-provoking movie about ageing, grief, regret, friendship, father-daughter relationships and how one finds peace and happiness in life — if that’s possible. Michael Caine (playing Fred Ballinger) and Harvey Keitel (playing Mick Boyle) are excellent as best friends exploring their past lives and what it means to grow older together. And the supporting cast puts in excellent performances. It’s emotionally rich and tender with the gorgeous cinematography providing surprising perspectives on familiar, everyday happenings. Thoroughly enjoyable.



Thursday, 17 December 2015

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

30 years after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat rises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a ragtag group of Heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance. —IMDB

Very enjoyable. Great that the franchise has returned to the style and feel of the oldest trilogy (Episodes 4-6) with a combination of old characters and new. Daisy Ridley is perfect as Rey who takes a very prominent role in the story. Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Max Von Sydow all reappear and it’s great to see them on screen again. The whole experience is quite nostalgic for those of us old enough to have seen the original three episodes so many years ago when they first hit cinema screens. The new director has done a great job and learned from what went wrong in the most recent three episodes. It’s a very promising direction for this franchise and I’m looking forward to the next one — and I really want a BB-8 Droid! Make sure you go see THE FORCE AWAKENS and definitely worth seeing in 3D!


NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - ODDBALL

SUMMARY: An eccentric chicken farmer, with the help of his granddaughter, trains his mischievous dog Oddball to protect a penguin sanctuary from fox attacks in an attempt to reunite his family and save their seaside town. — IMDB

MY REVIEW: ODDBALL is a great kids movie - in fact, it's a great movie for family viewing. The animals are cute, the cinematography of the beautiful southern Australian coastline is excellent (good for tourism!). Because the story is true it adds to the investment we put into watching it. Sarah Snook's presence gives the movie a professional edge and Coco Jack Gillies, who plays Olivia, is delightful, infusing the relationship she has with her grandad (played by Shane Jacobson, of Kenny fame) with joyful innocence.  And there's a surprising twist at the end. I really enjoyed this movie and highly recommend it for school holiday viewing.


Wednesday, 16 December 2015

YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

There is only one movie being released this week and it’s one we’ve been desperately waiting for… It’s STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. It’s a continuation of the saga created by George Lucas and set thirty years after Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983). And it’s getting great reviews from critics with the general public averaging around 4.5 stars! From what I hear, this episode returns with all the things we loved about the first three that were made. Can’t wait to see it tonight. Watch out for my review coming very soon!

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, 13 December 2015

NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - LAST CAB TO DARWIN

SUMMARY: Rex is a loner, and when he's told he doesn't have long to live, he embarks on an epic drive through the Australian outback from Broken Hill to Darwin to die on his own terms; but his journey reveals to him that before you can end your life, you have to live it, and to live it, you've got to share it. (Written by Reg Cribb and Jeremy Sims) — IMDB

MY REVIEW: LAST CAB TO DARWIN is a wonderful movie full of raw drama mixed with intelligent humour. It explores a range of significant issues - death and dying, euthanasia, racism, the plight of Aboriginal people in Australia, friendship, and much more - all dealt with sensitivity. Michael Caton (The Castle), as Rex the dying cabbie from Broken Hill, is brilliant. And all of the cast come across as authentic. The characters are all developed well and the story is engaging and thought-provoking. And what happens in Darwin is a genuine surprise. Apart from being a touch too long, this is one of the best Australian films I've seen this year and will be appreciated by mainstream moviegoers. A true delight.

 

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

There’s a drought of new movies this week so there is no top pick. There’s just one Korean crime movie you may or may not want to catch up with. It’s INSIDE MEN in which a former political henchman seeks out revenge for being dropped by a ruthless politician while a determined investigator tries to prove a connection between them. I don’t know anything about this one, but Wikipedia reports that, On its first four days at the South Korean box office, the film grossed ₩13.2 billion. Inside Men drew more than 2 million viewers in just six days, a record for an R-rated film; it has also set the record for the most-viewed R-rated movie in a single day -- 489,503 viewers. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether to see it or not.

In the mean time, if you haven’t seen it yet, check out IN THE HEART OF THE SEA. It’s on at cinemas right now. I have previously reviewed this one so click here to see it.

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, 8 December 2015

TRUTH

Newsroom drama detailing the 2004 CBS 60 Minutes report investigating then-President George W. Bush's military service, and the subsequent firestorm of criticism that cost anchor Dan Rather and producer Mary Mapes their careers. —IMDB

A slow first half that, once the criticism of the report starts, changes to an intense, tense thriller that raises very serious questions about the role and nature of journalism in modern society. Cate Blanchett is brilliant as Mary Mapes. The rest of the cast is ok although I didn’t find Robert Redford always convincing as Dan Rather, the news anchor. It’s a serious drama with important issues to explore although one wonders whether it sacrifices real-life complexity for the sake of a good story — now that’d be ironic!


Friday, 4 December 2015

HE NAMED ME MALALA

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. — IMDB

This is a beautiful, gentle documentary about a young, courageous girl standing up for the right of all girls to have an education. Interspersed with animated sequences and some real footage, we hear Malala share her dreadful experience being shot and left for dead by the Taliban and the simple, but very public life, she leads as a spokesperson for young women. It’s an inspirational movie directed with sensitivity and the warmness that exudes from Malala herself. The title of the film refers to her father naming her. Her father shares the spotlight with Malala and we come to understand his background and how he was also outspoken about the oppressive rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan when they came to power. HE NAMED ME MALALA is not a documentary of great depth — but reflects the innocence of this 17 year old who often demonstrates a wisdom beyond her years with humility and dignity. This private, intimate portrait of an amazing young girl is definitely worth a look and is truly an educational experience.


THE PROGRAM

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. —IMDB

After seeing THE PROGRAM, I’ve pretty much lost any respect I had for Lance Armstrong. According to the movie, based on David Walsh’s book that partly informed THE PROGRAM, Lance Armstrong was cheating way back even before he suffered from testicular cancer. THE PROGRAM is an adequate movie which plays a lot like a documentary at times. Ben Foster, who portrays Armstrong, is brilliant. He even prepared for his role by following the same drug-taking program that Armstrong demanded from his team members. And Chris Dowd is excellent as the journalist who persisted in investigating the (literally) unbelievable achievements of Armstrong and resisted the pressure of his journalistic colleagues to abandon the story. It’s an enlightening movie and I’m glad I’ve seen it. It’s a tragic fall from grace story driven by an obsessive desire to win at all costs. The ending is particularly disappointing, but that might be the result of Armstrong’s insipid response in acknowledging his wrong doing. There’s also little consideration of the implications of the consequences of Armstrong’s cheating for the sport. Worth seeing just to be informed.


ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING

A group of eccentric aliens confer a human being with the power to do absolutely anything, as an experiment. —IMDB

A Monty Python reunion that doesn’t do them justice. The story is ok and the movie explores themes to do with personal desire and free will. But the whole thing feels somewhat amateurish. Good to see Simon Pegg doing what he does best. Robin Williams plays a dog — the best character in the movie. I had a good laugh. But wait for the video release if you want to see this.


Thursday, 3 December 2015

THE NIGHT BEFORE

On Christmas eve, three lifelong friends, two of whom are Jewish, spend the night in New York City looking for the Holy Grail of Christmas parties. —IMDB

I’m becoming very bored with Seth Rogen’s style of humour (although the writing is by Jonathan Levine, who gave us the wonderful Warm Bodies) which relies on drug use, sexual references, coarse language and stupidity. THE NIGHT BEFORE actually has a good message about friendship — a much needed message around the Christmas holiday season. However, it’s a good idea that isn’t handled “seriously” and merely provides a tidal wave of crudity before it hits the quite moving gift at the end. It would be great if Set Rogen could return to the sort of humour we say in Knocked UP years ago. There are hints of this in THE NIGHT BEFORE. And there are a couple of celebrity cameos which are amusing, but overall, it feels more like the night after than the night before. I’d give this one a miss — unless you are fan of Seth Rogan, of course.


IN THE HEART OF THE SEA

Based on the 1820 event, a whaling ship is preyed upon by a sperm whale, stranding its crew at sea for 90 days, thousands of miles from home. —IMDB

Thoroughly enjoyable adventure movie based on the novel Moby Dick. Good, old-style storytelling with the benefit of modern CGI. There were a couple of times you could tell the background wasn’t real — but otherwise, the effects were good and thrilling, particularly in 3D. If you’ve read the book, the story will be familiar. Chris Hemsworth does a great job of Owen Chase. In some ways, the backstory of the way that Henry Melville, the author of Moby Dick, came to write the story, is the most interesting aspect of the movie. But the movie, as a whole, is a satisfying piece of entertainment.


NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - ANT-MAN

SUMMARY: 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

MY REVIEW: 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.


YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

TOP PICK to see this week is IN THE HEART OF THE SEA which is based on the 1820 event during which a whaling ship is preyed upon by a sperm whale, stranding its crew at sea for 90 days, thousands of miles from home. It’s based on the novel Moby Dick. I really enjoyed this one and would rate it ****1/2. I’ll post my review soon.

OTHERS TO SEE


PHOENIX is about a disfigured concentration-camp survivor (Nina Hoss), unrecognisable after facial reconstruction surgery, who searches ravaged postwar Berlin for the husband (Ronald Zehrfeld) who might have betrayed her to the Nazis. I have previously reviewed this movie. You can read my review here.

Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford team up for TRUTH, a newsroom drama detailing the 2004 CBS 60 Minutes report investigating then-President George W. Bush's military service, and the subsequent firestorm of criticism that cost anchor Dan Rather and producer Mary Mapes their careers.Village Voice’s Alan Scherstuhl, praises Vanderbilt, the screenwriter of Zodiac, here making his debut as a director, [who] masters the heady pulse of high-end, high-stakes journalism.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


Yet another Seth Rogen movie hits our screens. It’s THE NIGHT BEFORE where, on Christmas Eve, three lifelong friends, two of whom are Jewish, spend the night in New York City looking for the Holy Grail of Christmas parties. I predict that, if you like Seth Rogen movies, you’ll probably like this one. I rate it **1/2 and will post my review shortly. Screen International’s Tim Grierson describes it as A so-so stoner film where the premise is almost always better than the execution. I’d agree.

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, 1 December 2015

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2

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. —IMDB

Good, simple fun especially for the over 7s. The animation is good with some scary/violent bits in places. There’s a positive message about accepting difference but is undermined by the final scenes. If you’re looking for something to take the kids to through the holidays, put it on your list. Not really worth watching in 3D.