Wednesday, 30 March 2016

BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE

Fearing that the actions of Superman are left unchecked, Batman takes on the Man of Steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs. —IMDB

The critics are right about this one. It is boring, incoherent, disjointed, and overlong. Jessie Eisenberg, who plays Lex Luthor, is the only cast member that does a reasonable job of his character. The rest are mediocre. The movie tries to be deep and meaningful with frequent references to religious and philosophical themes, but they seem attached to the script like barnacles to an old boat. There is little character development and there’s only one line (that I can remember) in the movie that had even a hint of humour. The whole thing is very, very dark with a soundtrack typical of an action movie — and there is tons of action — and more action — and more action. In fact, the action never stops. The directing is poor resulting in a turgid,  frenetic series of scenes that make the whole movie a busy, jarring, rather than engaging, experience. This could have been a powerful story but it is overwhelmed by action and special effects. Watch the trailer for all you need to know — then give the movie a miss — not worth the money.


Monday, 28 March 2016

GRIMSBY

A new assignment forces a top spy to team up with his football hooligan brother. —IMDB

GRIMSBY is an offensive, incredibly crude, politically incorrect piece of cinema. The acting is average and, while there is a good message about family, this is buried in so much gratuitous obscenity that the message is almost invisible. There is no way I can begin to describe how gross this movie is. Apart from one or two laughs, this latest offering from Sacha Baron Cohen is completely unfunny. How he managed to get the likes of Mark Strong to partner with him is beyond me. The soundtrack is ok and there are some good action sequences but GRIMSBY is worth paying money NOT to see it — it is so bad. It is xenophobic, racist, and misogynist and is obsessed with bodily fluids, sex and guns. I think Cohen has become desperate and needs to move on from filmmaking.

1/2 (half a star)

Sunday, 27 March 2016

EYE IN THE SKY

Col. Katherine Powell, a military officer in command of an operation to capture terrorists in Kenya, sees her mission escalate when a girl enters the kill zone triggering an international dispute over the implications of modern warfare.—IMDB

EYE IN THE SKY is a very contemporary story dealing with drone warfare and the ethical dilemmas that can be faced with this new technology. The story is deeply thought provoking, emotionally powerful, and ethically complex. The acting is excellent, especially by the late Alan Rickman who steals the scenes he is in. The character development is very good and, despite the fact that the story is very serious, there is the occasional humour related to the sometimes (frequent?) farcical behaviour by politicians. The soundtrack is sensitive and unobtrusive. The cinematography is very good, especially the way we watch a large percentage of the events from the point of view of the drone operators. The movie is, perhaps, a touch too slow in places but, overall, the pace is very good with considerable tension and suspense. EYE IN THE SKY is chilling in it’s realism and raises significant ethical questions about this recent form of warfare including the emotional impact on the soldiers who are required to implement it. An intelligent, timely movie.


3D KUNG FU PANDA 3

Continuing his "legendary adventures of awesomeness", Po must face two hugely epic, but different threats: one supernatural and the other a little closer to his home. —IMDB

KUNG FU PANDA 3 is the usual delightful offering from DreamWorks. It’s good fun even if a bit predictable. The story’s ok with a large number of references to Chinese philosophy and chi — the concept of energy essential to much Eastern thought. The humour is cute and amusing and the animation, as would be expected from DreakWorks, is superb and well worth the extra money to see in 3D. Jack Black, Angelina Jolie and Dustin Hoffman provide great voicing. While not quite as good as the first in the series the kids will still love it and it’s a great family film. Major themes are about identify and family - especially the idea of having two dads. Recommended for ages 6+.


Friday, 25 March 2016

NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY - PART 2

SUMMARY: As the war of Panem escalates to the destruction of other districts, 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

MY REVIEW: 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. Check it out!


Thursday, 24 March 2016

YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

With the Easter long weekend, time to head for the movies!

TOP PICK


Top pick this week to see is EYE IN THE SKY. In this drama war thriller Col. Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren), a military officer in command of an operation to capture terrorists in Kenya, sees her mission escalate when a girl enters the kill zone triggering an international dispute over the implications of modern warfare. Sounds very contemporary. People ***1/2 | Critics ***1/2 Me: **** (my review coming soon!)

OTHERS TO SEE


The loveable Po is back in KUNG FU PANDA 3 continuing his "legendary adventures of awesomeness”. In this episode, Po must face two hugely epic, but different threats: one supernatural and the other a little closer to his home. If you’ve seen the previous movies in the series, you’ll definitely want to catch up on this one. People ***1/2 | Critics ***

I’m always up for a crime mystery drama and A BIGGER SPLASH looks good. It’s about the vacation of a famous rock star and a filmmaker who are disrupted by the unexpected visit of an old friend and his daughter. People *** | Critics ***1/2

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE is on the maybe/maybe not list this week. Fearing the actions of Superman are left unchecked, Batman takes on the man of steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs. With Batman and Superman fighting each other, a new threat, Doomsday, is created by Lex Luthor. It's up to Superman and Batman to set aside their differences along with Wonder Woman to stop Lex Luthor and Doomsday from destroying Metropolis. People ***1/2 | Critics **

TO AVOID


Unsurprisingly, MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2 is one to avoid. In this episode a Portokalos family secret brings the beloved characters back together for an even bigger and Greeker wedding. (I’m assuming the secret is the one revealed in the trailer!) People **1/2 | Critics **

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, 21 March 2016

ZOOTOPIA

In a city of anthropomorphic animals, a rookie bunny cop and a cynical con artist fox must work together to uncover a conspiracy. —IMDB

ZOOTOPIA is an enjoyable animated movie with some good messages without being preachy. The animals’ personalities fit perfectly and the voicing is spot on. It’s a delightful story full of good, clean humour. The music and songs are good and the animation is top-notch. 3D was ok but I don’t think you’d miss out on much if you saw it in 2D. This is a Disney production but the style is more like Pixar than Disney. It’s clever and intelligent and moves along at a great pace. I really enjoyed it and any kid 8+ will, too. Check it out.


Saturday, 19 March 2016

THE DAUGHTER

The story follows a man who returns home to discover a long-buried family secret, and whose attempts to put things right threaten the lives of those he left home years before. —IMDB

THE DAUGHTER is an excellent Australian movie starring some great actors — Geoffrey Rush, Anna Torv, and Miranda Otto. Odessa Young puts in an excellent turn as Hedvig. And it’s great to see Sam Neill pop up in an Australian movie again. The story develops slowly, effectively builds unease, twists and turns in subtle ways, and climaxes with a powerful ending. The acting is very good with natural performances. It’s based on a novel by Ibsen called The Wild Duck. The characters are superbly developed throughout the story along with a soundtrack that is sparsely used and melancholy. The cinematography that makes use of the Australian bush complements the story. A very satisfying movie with a powerful message that all of us are profoundly impacted by our pasts.


Thursday, 17 March 2016

YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

A few good movies to see this week… at least, they are supposed to be good!

TOP PICK


Top of the list to see is ZOOTOPIA. In a city of anthropomorphic animals (i.e., animals who act like humans), a rookie bunny cop and a cynical con artist fox must work together to uncover a conspiracy. ZOOTOPIA is getting high ratings with general viewers and critics. Movie Nation’s Roger Moore says, ‘The movie's message about tolerance and not pre-judging others sings, and the many chases, interrogations (a weasel ably voiced by Alan Tudyk) and narrow escapes pay off.’ It’s showing in 2D and 3D … so off to the cinema we go!

OTHERS TO SEE


THE WITCH is also rating well. It’s about a family in 1630s New England which is torn apart by the forces of witchcraft, black magic and possession. That description might suggest this is just another horror film. But The Guardian’s Jordan Hoffman suggests that, ‘This movie may be too slow and verbose to be the next breakout horror hit, but its focus on themes over plot is what elevates it to something near greatness.’ Before heading to the cinema to see this one, you might like to read Hoffman’s full review (among others). You can find it at this link: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/jan/23/the-witch-review-robert-eggers-sundance-festival-2015

THE DAUGHTER is another Australian movie — and it’s brilliant. The story follows a man who returns home to discover a long-buried family secret, and whose attempts to put things right threaten the lives of those he left home years before. Variety’s Eddie Cockrell describes THE DAUGHTER as, ‘Deeply involving and emotionally searing, [it reps a confident and profoundly moving bigscreen debut for established theater director Simon Stone.’ I loved this movie and will post my review shortly.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


There are two movies that, for me, are on the maybe/maybe not list. The first is LONDON HAS FALLEN in which Mike Banning, in in London for the Prime Minister's funeral, discovers a plot to assassinate all the attending world leaders. General viewers are rating this as average but critics are not impressed. Variety’s Guy Lodge complains that, ‘For all the slicing and dicing of the editing, narrative momentum grinds to a trudge after the synthetic spectacle of the capital's undoing.’

Finally, MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN is, according to Sony Pictures, based on the incredible true story of the Beam family. When Christy (Jennifer Garner) discovers her 10-year-old daughter Anna (Kylie Rogers) has a rare, incurable disease, she becomes a ferocious advocate for her daughter's healing as she searches for a solution. After Anna has a freak accident, an extraordinary miracle unfolds in the wake of her dramatic rescue that leaves medical specialists mystified, her family restored and their community inspired.’ It’s worth noting that this movie is based on ‘the incredible true story’. So who knows how far from the truth it strays. Given that claims of a miracle are central to the story, I would suggest that some seriously healthy skepticism be part of one’s viewing. If I get to see this one (and it is low on the list), I’ll let you know what I think.

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.

Friday, 11 March 2016

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE

After getting in a car accident, a woman is held in a shelter by two men, who claim the outside world is affected by a widespread chemical attack. —IMDB

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE is a brilliant, edge of the seat drama/mystery/sci-fi movie. The acting is great with John Goodman putting in one of the best performances I have seen from him ever. The story is very clever with lots of twists. It is tense and unpredictable with the suspense coming from what is going on psychologically rather than from special effects or cliched tricks — this is an original, intelligent, smart movie. There are touches of humour here and there but it is mostly an intense piece of psychodrama. The soundtrack is spot on and sparingly complements the story. The action is believable and avoids sensationalist CGI. The special effects and cinematography are great and the suspense is situational rather than contrived. This is a deeply satisfying movie — I loved it!


TRIPLE 9

A gang of criminals and corrupt cops plan the murder of a police officer in order to pull off their biggest heist yet across town. —IMDB

This was a messy, muddy, complicated, violent movie with average acting and a strange performance by Kate Winslett. The movie doesn’t rise to the potential height of some great actors. The story is confusing and it’s hard to keep track of the characters. The development of characters is ok. There’s a driving soundtrack that complements the dark, violent themes and the dark, dirty, gritty cinematography. Didn’t work for me…


NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - SPECTRE

SUMMARY: A cryptic message from Bond's past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. 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

MY REVIEW: 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 Léa 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!


Thursday, 10 March 2016

YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Not much to choose from this week… but there is one standout movie…

TOP PICK


10 CLOVERFIELD LANE is brilliant! I’ve just come home from seeing it and I’m exhausted — it is a superb drama mystery sci-fi which I will review shortly — but it’s a must see. It’s about a woman who, after getting in a car accident, is held in a shelter by two men, who claim the outside world is affected by a widespread chemical attack. Variety’s Justin Chang says, ‘The tension is rooted in psychology rather than gimmickry, and evinces a command of craft that feels old-fashioned in the most refreshing possible sense.’ Absolutely true. Get to the cinema to see this one if you like tense, taut, edge of your seat, psychological thriller/drama/sci-fi. Can’t wait to tell you about this one in a follow-up review shortly.

MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


The rest of what’s on offer is pretty ho-hum although SPEAR could be worth seeing. It is a drama about Djali,a young Aboriginal man who journeys through his community to understand what it means to be a man with ancient traditions in a modern world. Don’t know much about this one but will fill you in when I have seen it.

Finally, there’s GRIMSBY starring Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat), Mark Strong (Kingsman: The Secret Service), and Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect 2). A new assignment forces a top spy to team up with his football hooligan brother. Critics are averaging about 2 to 2.5 stars and general public slightly higher — 3 to 3.5 stars.

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, 5 March 2016

THE FINEST HOURS

The Coast Guard makes a daring rescue attempt off the coast of Cape Cod after a pair of oil tankers are destroyed during a blizzard in 1952. —IMDB

A tense, thrilling seafaring adventure. Chris Pine and Casey Affleck lead an adequate cast in this true story of incredible bravery. It suffers from being so traditional and the romantic elements that are sickly sweet. There is little real character development and tries to hard to be exciting. The soundtrack is traditional and constantly present. The special effects are believable and the opening scenes where the tanker breaks in half are amazing. The story is a series of impossible challenges that are overcome. It’s all pretty predictable but it still manages to be suspenseful in most part. It’s available in 3D but I wasn’t able to make that session so not sure whether it would be worth seeing in that format.


THE LADY IN A VAN

A man forms an unexpected bond with a transient woman living in her van that's parked in his driveway. —IMDB

A “mostly true” story (according to the titles) that is sweet and amusing. Maggie Smith is excellent, as you would expect, and her character, and that of Alan Bennett’s (whose memoir this is based on), develop nicely. But it is Maggie Smith who is the backbone of the film. The story is ok and deals with issues that are important but are, perhaps, too sanitised to have much impact. THE LADY IN THE VAN was filmed in the actual house where the events took place.


Friday, 4 March 2016

NEW RELEASE DVD RECOMMENDATION - BRIDGE OF SPIES

SUMMARY: During the Cold War, an American lawyer is recruited to defend an arrested Soviet spy in court, and then help the CIA facilitate an exchange of the spy for the Soviet captured American U2 spy plane pilot, Francis Gary Powers. — IMDB

MY REVIEW: When you team up the Cohen brothers as writers with the masterful storyteller and director Steven Spielberg, you expect to get something special. And BRIDGE OF SPIES is just that - something special. It's the true story of James B Donovan (Tom Hanks), a lawyer with no criminal trial experience, who is asked  by the US government to defend a Russian spy, Rudolf Abel (played by Mark Rylance). It's a great story of a great man who served his country with integrity, despite the personal costs to himself. It's gratifying to see a true hero on screen in contrast to all the fantasy heroes we are used to seeing of late. The pace of the movie is subdued, but it is engaging and finishes with us on the edge of our seats. The cinematography is excellent and portrays the Cold War period well along with the story that breathes new life into this genre. Hanks is excellent in the starring role and all supporting cast are good. A solid spy drama that tells an important story. Go see it!


HAIL, CAESAR!

A Hollywood fixer in the 1950s works to keep the studio's stars in line. —IMDB

Days after seeing HAIL, CAESAR! I still can’t see the point of making this movie. It is completely inane and a waste of 107 minutes. You would have thought from the trailers that this one would have been lots of fun given it was written and directed by the Coen brothers. But if I were them, I’d take my name off it immediately! I vaguely remember a couple of humour moments but the majority of it was incredibly unfunny. There’s just nothing worth seeing this movie for. Why people like George Clooney signed up for this one is beyond me. Dull. Dull. Dull.


13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI

As an American ambassador is killed during an attack at a U.S. compound in Libya, a security team struggles to make sense out of the chaos. —IMDB

This story is about the heroic actions of a security team defending a US compound but, because it is just continuous action, it lacks adequate depth and becomes boring. The acting looks like it’s done by rote and the story is long and texturally flat. There is no character development. The soundtrack is good and the action well done — but it just seems to be all about people shooting at each other. The cinematography is done well. Overall, this cliched, confusing film doesn’t do justice to what are clearly important historical events.


SON OF SAUL

In the horror of 1944 Auschwitz, a prisoner 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. —IMDB

SON OF SAUL is a unique and often disturbing film. The movie was shot with a 40mm camera which gives a very shallow depth of field. It also uses an aspect ratio of 1.375:1 to achieve a portrait-like narrow field of vision. All we see is what the main character sees within his field of vision. This give a very claustrophobic effect. A lot of what is happening is outside of this field of vision so our imagination fills in detail from the sounds we hear. This makes for a very disquieting experience. It’s very hard to describe unless you see it. The acting is excellent and the story is simple but very moving. The soundtrack is incredible and is absolutely essential to the drama of the story. Overall, it is a very powerful, uneasy film to watch. The uniqueness of its approach is almost too much — at times, the conscious awareness of this uniqueness becomes a distraction from the immersion in the story. But, overall, it is an approach that makes us feel as though we are standing in the position of the main character. It’s grim, intense, disturbing and haunting. If you see this one, get ready to be challenged.


Thursday, 3 March 2016

YOUR GUIDE TO THIS WEEK'S NEW CINEMA RELEASES

Just one movie you won’t want to miss this week…

TOP PICK


You’ve seen the trailers many times… and now it is here! THE LADY IN THE VAN, starring Maggie Smith, a man forms an unexpected bond with a transient woman living in her van that's parked in his driveway. It looks like this one is going to be reasonably entertaining and Maggie Smith is always good value. For The Hollywood Reporter’s Frank Scheck, ‘It's Smith's eccentric oldster who is the film's driving force, and the 80-year-old actress doesn't disappoint.’


OTHERS TO SEE


For the anime lovers amongst us, there is THE BOY AND THE BEAST.  It’s the latest feature film from award-winning Japanese director Mamoru Hosoda (Summer Wars, Wolf Children): When Kyuta, a young orphan living on the streets of Shibuya, stumbles into a fantastic world of beasts, he's taken in by Kumatetsu, a gruff, rough-around-the-edges warrior beast who's been searching for the perfect apprentice. Despite their constant bickering, Kyuta and Kumatetsu begin training together and slowly form a bond as surrogate father and son. But when a deep darkness threatens to throw the human and beast worlds into chaos, the strong bond between this unlikely family will be put to ultimate test-a final showdown that will only be won if the two can finally work together using all of their combined strength and courage. The Playlist’s Oliver Lyttelton says, ‘There are elements of The Boy And The Beast that undoubtedly reinforce the promise that Hosoda holds: it's a treat to look at, is inventive in spots, and will probably be eaten up by younger viewers. But it ultimately proves both narratively unsatisfying and emotionally lacking.’ So one for the younger viewer.


MAYBE/MAYBE NOT


THE FINEST HOURS tells the story of the Coast Guard that makes a daring rescue attempt off the coast of Cape Cod after a pair of oil tankers are destroyed during a blizzard in 1952. It’s showing in 2D and 3D. While the general public is rating it slightly above average, the critics are not so happy. Entertainment Weekly’s Chris Nashawaty describes this one as ‘An intermittently affecting, sanded-edge adventure that feels as if it trundled off the studio production line back when Eisenhower was in office.’ Will you go with the general public or the critics? Let us know what it’s like if you see it.

Finally, in TRIPLE 9, a gang of criminals and corrupt cops plan the murder of a police officer in order to pull off their biggest heist yet across town. This is another one which had a spectacular trailer. But critics are disagreeing with the general public again. The Playlist’s Oliver Lyttelton comments, ‘As well-handled as the set pieces are, the connective tissue doesn't pull you along, and then collapses completely in a messy, unsatisfying final act.’

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, 2 March 2016

CONCUSSION

In Pittsburgh, accomplished pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu uncovers the truth about brain damage in football players who suffer repeated concussions in the course of normal play. —IMDB

A brilliant movie and a great story. Will Smith is excellent as Dr Bennett Omalu with a good supporting cast. The story is excellent — compelling and contemporary and told in a straightforward way. It is hard to believe these events occurred so recently. Smith’s character is fascinating and develops well over the course of the film. There is the occasional humour derived naturally from events. Definitely worth checking out at the cinema or home on digital when it is released.