Thursday, 25 February 2016

YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Five new movies to see this week!

TOP PICK


Top pick this week is SON OF SAUL, a Hungarian drama thriller in which, in the horror of 1944 Auschwitz, a prisoner who is forced to burn the corpses of his own people finds moral survival upon trying to salvage from the flames the body of a boy he takes for his son. Both general public and critics are rating this highly. This one could be tough to watch given its disturbing violent content. Variety’s Justin Chang describes ‘The result [as] grim and unyielding a depiction of the Holocaust as has yet been made on that cinematically overworked subject - a masterful exercise in narrative deprivation and sensory overload that recasts familiar horrors in daringly existential terms.’

OTHERS TO SEE


HAIL, CAESAR! is a comedy mystery about a Hollywood fixer in the 1950s who works to keep the studio's stars in line. It’s a Coen brothers film so expect the usual quirkiness. The New York Daily News says this one is, ‘Star-studded and stylish[. T]his addition to the brothers' acclaimed canon is a looker with laughs and, alas, dull stretches. It's fun and entertaining - no more, no less, no exclamation point.’

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI is based on the true story of an American ambassador who is killed during an attack at a U.S. compound in Libya. A security team struggles to make sense out of the chaos. Austin Chronicle’s Marc Savlov describes it as, ‘A weird mix of pseudo-jingoism and Bay's usual bombastic firepower[.] 13 Hours ends up being a straight-up war film without an actual war in it.’ General viewers are rating this much more highly than the critics who are describing it as below average.

The zombies are back in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES. It’s about five sisters in 19th century England who must cope with the pressures to marry while protecting themselves from a growing population of zombies. Hmmm… Not sure what this one will be like. It’s another one which the general public are more appreciative of than critics — but only just. Variety’s Andrew Barker says it’s, ‘Tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt substantial audiences[.] Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is in fact a moderately entertaining film, not deficient in old-fashioned costume drama when it pleases, nor in the power of being clever where it chooses, but awkward and unsatisfying.’

Finally, GODS OF EGYPT has arrived on our screens. The trailers look spectacular. Mortal hero Bek teams with the god Horus in an alliance against Set, the merciless god of darkness who has usurped Egypt's throne, plunging the once peaceful and prosperous empire into chaos and conflict. Sadly, this one doesn’t even feature any Egyptian actors! I’ve got no information from critics yet, but the general public are rating it as average. Up to you whether you see it or not. It’s also available 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. These updates are written from an Australian perspective so openings of the movies in cinemas may vary in other parts of the world.

TRUMBO

In 1947, Dalton Trumbo was Hollywood's top screenwriter, until he and other artists were jailed and blacklisted for their political beliefs. —IMDB

TRUMBO provides a very interesting insight into the effects of the blacklist on people — including their families and friends. It is tragic to see how paranoia can be so oppressive — even in the “land of the free”. The acting is excellent, particularly that of Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) as Dalton Trumbo. There are some great characters in this one. The story is very dialogue driven but moves along at a great pace for most of the movie — a touch of a lag in the middle. Trumbo was obviously a very witty man and this comes through strongly in the movie. I really enjoyed this one and learned a lot. An entertaining look at a very serious period in American history.


Saturday, 20 February 2016

45 YEARS

A married couple preparing to celebrate their wedding anniversary receive shattering news that promises to forever change the course of their lives. —IMDB

A deep and nuanced exploration of the effect a past event in the  life of one spouse has on a marriage when it comes to light. It’s slow and reflective with Charlotte Rampling (who plays the wife) putting in a great performance. It’s a simple story with profound significance. The last act is moving and unsettling. The characters are developed well over the course of the film and the cinematography mirrors the internal disturbances experienced by the protagonists. 45 YEARS is more European in its sensibilities than a Hollywood spectacle so check it out if you want to see something meaningful and reflective that doesn’t rush the viewer to the conclusion. Having said all that, I don’t think it has the dramatic potency it could have had. But it is worth a look.


NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - BLACK MASS

SUMMARY: The true story of Whitey Bulger, the brother of a state senator and the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who became an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf. — IMDB

MY REVIEW: Johnny Depp as Bulger is riveting in this true crime drama, and Joel Edgerton who plays the FBI agent for whom Bulger becomes and informant, is strong in the supporting role. The movie is extremely violent - sometimes bordering on the unnecessary - and the script is complex requiring considerable concentration. The problem I have with this movie is that we never really know what the inner life of Bulger was. The psychological dynamics of this criminal are never articulated. Depp is the reason to see this movie - his performance is perhaps the best we have seen of him for a while. This is not a feel-good movie. It is very grim and is primarily worth seeing for the performances of the cast. But prepare yourself for the confronting violence if you choose to see it.


Thursday, 18 February 2016

YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Take a big breath… because there’s lots of new releases this week!

TOP PICK


Top of the list to see this week is 45 YEARS about a married couple preparing to celebrate their wedding anniversary who receive shattering news that promises to forever change the course of their lives. Critics are scoring it highly — slightly  more than the general public. indieWIRE’s Eric Kohn says, ‘Anchored by a sensational Charlotte Rampling as its lead, the movie combines Haigh's perceptive style with shades of Mike Leigh's "Another Year" to create a quietly moving and deceptively tragic look at aging romance haunted by past mysteries.’ Sounds like a must see.


OTHERS TO SEE


In 1947, Dalton Trumbo was Hollywood's top screenwriter, until he and other artists were jailed and blacklisted for their political beliefs. TRUMBO is his story. For Variety’s Peter Debruge, ‘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.’

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


CONCUSSION, starring Will Smith, is set in Pittsburgh, where accomplished pathologist, Dr. Bennet Omalu, uncovers the truth about brain damage in football players who suffer repeated concussions in the course of normal play. The trailers look good but the movie itself may not live up to expectations. According to The A.V. Club’s Jesse Hassenger, ‘Smith's Omalu makes a compelling character, supported by his mentor Cyril Wecht (Albert Brooks) and former team doctor Julian Bailes (Alec Baldwin). But Concussion doesn't crackle like the best whistleblower dramas.’

New York City is full of lonely hearts seeking the right match, and, in HOW TO BE SINGLE, what Alice, Robin, Lucy, Meg, Tom and David all have in common is the need to learn how to be single in a world filled with ever-evolving definitions of love. General viewers are rating it as average with critics below that. Variety’s Nick Schager describes it as, ‘Splintered between thinly sketched focal points rather than actually plumbing the real fear, paranoia and elation that come from operating without a romantic partner\[.] How to Be Single never transcends its most sitcom-y instincts.’

RISEN ‘Follows the epic Biblical story of the Resurrection \[of Christ], as told through the eyes of a non-believer. Clavius, a powerful Roman Military Tribune, and his aide Lucius, are tasked with solving the mystery of what happened to Jesus in the weeks following the crucifixion, in order to disprove the rumors of a risen Messiah and prevent an uprising in Jerusalem.’ (Written by Sony Pictures) There’s nothing much I’ve seen written about this one so don’t know what it will be like. If I see it, I’ll let you know!

TO AVOID


Finally, one to avoid: In RIDE ALONG 2 Ben, as his wedding day approaches, heads to Miami with his soon-to-be brother-in-law James to bring down a drug dealer who's supplying the dealers of Atlanta with product. Hmmm… sounds cliched and superficial already. Be warned when TheWrap’s Alonso Duralde tells us that, ‘The film's most genuinely funny moment involves A.J.'s ringtones, which should perhaps come as no surprise - the stakes, and the laughs, are so small that Ride Along 2 was apparently designed to be watched on your phone.’ 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.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

DEADPOOL

A former Special Forces operative turned mercenary is subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers, adopting the alter ego Deadpool. —IMDB

DEADPOOL doesn’t reach the level of the hype surrounding it, but it is a good fun movie with some funny moments, incredible choreography and action sequences, and top-notch special effects. As far as parodies go, it’s uneven but it’s good to see Marvel have a go at its own superhero movies. It you like the superhero genre and are willing to have some fun poked at it, check this one out. It does earn its mature audience rating.


Saturday, 13 February 2016

NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - THE MARTIAN

SUMMARY: During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meagre supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. — IMDB

MY REVIEW: THE MARTIAN is based on the bestselling book of the same name written by Andy Weir. The book was brilliant! While the movie follows the book faithfully, the movie doesn't quite live up to the book in my view. I found the book more suspenseful than the movie. But the movie is still a very worthwhile outing! The characters are great with all of the cast giving excellent performances. Matt Damon, in the lead role as Mark Watney, stranded on Mars, brings his usual professionalism to the role and conveys the necessary humour in what is a terrifying situation. However, THE MARTIAN needed to be more gritty and raw  for me - the whole thing seemed too nice and clean. The incredible stress, exhaustion and fear of being stranded alone on a planet conveyed in the book is not matched by the movie. The soundtrack is great, based on the favourite music of one of the mission astronauts left behind on Mars. There's a bit of a lag in the middle. One of the most interesting aspects of the movie is the focus on the use of science in solving the problems of survival in favour of sensationalism or over-the-top patriotism. The cinematography is very good. It's a good piece of entertainment - but check out the book after seeing the movie.


Friday, 12 February 2016

BROOKLYN

An Irish immigrant lands in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly falls into a romance with a local. When her past catches up with her, however, she must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within. --IMDB


Pretty bland. Cinematography and acting very good but the story lacked dramatic tension. It was predictable without significant character development. Music was sweet and the period was represented well. More escapism than serious drama.

 

Thursday, 11 February 2016

YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

A couple of movies to watch this week. The topic pick is tricky — it depends on whether you want to go with popular opinion or the opinion of critics. Let’s go with the critics … that means …

TOP PICK


The top pick goes to BROOKLYN in which an Irish immigrant (Saoirse Ronan) lands in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly falls into a romance with a local. When her past catches up with her, however, she must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within. According to Hitfix, ‘It's a damn good movie.’ Better check it out!

OTHERS TO SEE


DEADPOOL finally arrives this week. In this action adventure sci-fi, a former Special Forces operative turned mercenary is subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers, adopting the alter ego Deadpool. The trailers look fun but there’s lots of violence. indieWIRE’s Kate Erbland reminds us that, ‘As is often the case with such violence, it eventually becomes numbing. By its midpoint, once the novelty of a superhero movie showing super levels of violence wears off, the thinness and lack of spark in the fight scenes becomes more readily apparent. By the film's end, they are hard to distinguish from any other superhero fare. Similarly, lack of imagination keep the film's prodigious swearing and occasional nudity from feeling like anything original.’


TO AVOID


One to avoid this week (which is no surprise) — ZOOLANDER 2 starring Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Penélope Cruz. The fact that Ben Stiller is the director and co-writer should be enough to warn you not to bother. According to Entertainment Weekly’s Chris Nashawaty, ‘Zoolander No. 2 is embarrassing, lazy, and aggressively unfunny. The only good news is that at the pace the franchise is moving, we won't get Zoolander 3 until 2030.’ 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, 10 February 2016

LOOKING FOR GRACE

After a teenage girl named Grace goes missing, her parents along with the help of an investigator seek to find her, while also juggling their own secrets and stories between them. —IMDB

I’m not sure LOOKING FOR GRACE quite knows what genre it is. It’s difficult to categorise — sort of a drama that is slightly quirky and very, very dry with its humour at times. There are some interesting observations on mundane life. Told in a series of stories of characters that eventually converge and reveal what it is going on, it takes a while to understand what is happening. Grace’s story is told first with almost no dialogue. It’s quite slow but beautiful and uneasy. The acting is average except for Odessa Young, who plays grace, and Radha Mitchell (Grace’s mother) who is not as good as Young but does express deep emotions with nuanced facial expressions. The story is quite intriguing although the climactic shock that occurs is a bit cliched now. There’s not a lot of character development. The soundtrack, featuring quite a bit of piano, is gentle and slightly humorous in feel with stunning visuals of Australian landscape. Since seeing the movie, it has grown on me as I have reflected on it. It isn’t great — and most viewers seem to be rating it so low that in my weekly guide I suggested it should be avoided. But if you’re looking for something a bit different, you might enjoy this.


Saturday, 6 February 2016

STEVE JOBS

Steve Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution, to paint a portrait of the man at its epicenter. The story unfolds backstage at three iconic product launches, ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac. —IMDB

STEVE JOBS was quite confusing at times, as it wasn’t always clear just which product launch we were looking at. It also used occasional flashbacks for which a bit of quick adjustment was needed to realise it was actually a flashback. While the idea of taking three product launches as the framework for the movie was good, it did feel pretty disjointed and unengaging. The best parts of the movie were the performance by Kate Winslet as Steve Jobs’s secretary (apart from her inconsistent accent) and the focus on Jobs’s relationship to his daughter, Lisa, played by different actors for different ages. Seth Rogan also plays Steve Wozniak very well. The most moving moments in the story came in the last minutes of what is quite a long and uneven movie. The story is very dialogue driven. I think this movie is an important, warts-and-all glimpse at who Steve Jobs was — it most definitely is not a hagiography — but I’m not sure it is a great movie. It is an important movie of a man who has changed the world but had enormous difficulty managing other people, including his closest friends and family.


ANOMALISA

A man crippled by the mundanity of his life experiences something out of the ordinary. —IMDB

This stop-motion animation is a strange little movie. It’s basically about a man who is at a very low point in his life, completely bored with his mundane existence, who has an affair at a hotel where he is to present on his area of expertise — customer service. The voices are all done by one person which means that the story is quite unsettling and confusing — although, on one level, it’s a pretty straightforward story. The animation is excellent and there is good character development. Most critics seem to be raving about this movie. But it didn’t do much for me. It is clever in a way — but after awhile, it gets pretty boring. The main character is clearly depressed and decides to seduce a naive young girl. There’s nothing very likeable about the main character and it’s pretty obvious that the only woman who would be “attracted” to him is one who has such a low self-esteem that anyone showing her attention would be appreciated. The man she is attracted to is a nasty, self-centred, self-absorbed user of this gentle, self-conscious, young woman. So, overall, pretty average. My rating gives credit to the quality of the animation.


YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

It’s been ages, but at last, STEVE JOBS arrives on our screen. More below…

TOP PICK

The top pick this week, by a slim margin, at least with general viewers and critics, is ANOMALISA. A man crippled by the mundanity of his life experiences something out of the ordinary. It’s a stop-motion animated movie but is definitely for adults only. It’s been nominated for the Oscars for best animated feature film of the year. Whether it holds up to that accolade remains to be seen. indieWIRE’s Eric Kohn probably has it right when he says that it is, ‘A disorienting puzzle of a movie with many exhilarating pieces[,] Anomalisa nevertheless maintains a straightforward trajectory involving Michael's internal strife.’ My review coming soon.

OTHERS TO SEE

I’ve been waiting to see STEVE JOBS for ages. The movie takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution, to paint a portrait of the man at its epicenter. The story unfolds backstage at three iconic product launches, ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac. It’s being met with a good reception. Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet have both been nominated for Oscars for their roles in this. indieWIRE’s Eric Kohn says that, ‘While at times too over-the-top and operatic for its own good, those same flawed ingredients echo the rough edges that define the movie's iconic subject.’ I’ll be seeing it today and will post my review asap!

TO AVOID

Finally, just one to avoid this week. It’s THE CHOICE in which Travis and Gabby first meet as neighbours in a small coastal town and then wind up in a relationship that is tested by life's most defining events. Well it sounds ok. But Slant Magazine’s Eric Henderson reminds us that ‘Most Nicholas Sparks adaptations say, in cinematic terms, nothing so complicated as "roses are red." This one just points to a garden and shrugs.’ Won’t be on my list!

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.