Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Hursto's top movies for 2015

Time to look at what I liked and disliked in 2015. Remember, it's all subjective!! Full reviews of many can be found at www.cinephilia.net.au

Anyone wanting a copy of my trusty list of the 160 or so films I've seen, each with a fairly shallow one-line comment, can request it via email at hursto@netspace.net.au
In no particular order,  here are my top 10 films for the year:
Salt of the Earth
Still Alice
99 Homes
The Salvation
Wild Tales
The Homesman
Mad Max: Fury Road 

And here are some that came really close to the top 10:
Last Cab to Darwin
Love and Mercy
X + Y
Imitation Game
Bridge of Spies

Top performances that really impressed:
Eddie Redmayne (Theory of Everything)
Hugo Weaving (The Dressmaker)
Julieanne More (Still Alice)
Carey Mulligan (Suffragette)
Tom Hardy (Legend)
David Oloweyo (Selma)
Reese Witherspoon (Wild)
Matt Damon (The Martian) 

My most disliked films:
Terminator Genisys

Let's start with some more of the films releasing on Boxing Day, then I'll follow up with a fresh post of my most memorable films for 2015.
Happy Christmas to all, and may you see many more fab films in 2016!! 

Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Length: 124 mins

Youth is the type of film that seems to divide viewers. It tells of  two lifelong friends on holiday in a Swiss alpine resort. Michael Caine plays 80-year-old Fred Ballinger, composer and conductor who grieves for his beloved wife who has dementia. Harvey Keitel is Mick, a veteran film maker who is scripting his forthcoming film with young colleagues. With Fred is his daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz) whose husband has just left her for pop star Paloma Faith. Another notable at the resort is type-cast actor Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano) who is trying to expand his career choices.
The old men walk and talk and reflect a lot upon their youth and their 60-year friendship. Lena gives her father a huge serve about his shortcomings in the parenting department during her youth. Old wrinkled folk go into the saunas, and the stunning Miss Universe turns up in her glorious nakedness to highlight age versus youth. A star turn comes from Jane Fonda playing an aging hysterical actress - yet another reminder of the ravages of age. Jimmy, dressed up to play Hitler, also adds a small and very funny scene to the film, as does a brilliantly spoofy video starring Paloma Faith.
While many will not find the film easily accessible, those who enjoy this style of filmmaking can revel in a visual symphonic poem which blends surrealism, simply glorious scenery, sublime cinematography, smart dialogue and stunning performances all round. The dialogue is at times poignant, and at all times witty and engaging. The music is a special treat, especially the famous piece written by Fred called Simple Song. This creative reflection upon the passing of time is a film to savour. 

Unmissable (well, for me)!

For a forthcoming full review head to:

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict
Director: Lisa Immordino Vreeland
Length: 96 mins

This doco traces the life of one of the art world's iconic patrons and collectors, wealthy socialite Peggy Guggenheim. We learn of her family history in the early 1900s, and how her love of the Bohemian life led to many affairs with artists, and the collecting of works from Modernist and Surrealist painters. She opened innovative galleries in London and New York, but finally housed her collection in Venice, where it remains today. There is plenty of archival footage, but I felt I never really got to know much of her personality Still, for art lovers this is probably something to definitely go and see. 

Maybe worth a look!

For a full review from Bernard Hemingway:

Director: David O Russell
Length: 124 mins

Joy is based upon real life inventor Joy Mangano, famous for inventing the Miracle Mop, which was then marketed on the specialised cable channel HSN, Home Shopping Network.  Joy is given her opportunity by HSN network boss Neil Walker, played by Bradley Cooper.

This is an upbeat film featuring a strong central performance from Jennifer Lawrence. The film has four generations of women.  Joy is encouraged by her Grandma Mimi (Dianne Ladd) , hassled by her scatterbrained mother (Virginia Madsen) who endlessly watches soap operas on TV and grounded by her role as a single mother. Her estranged husband Tony (Edgar Ramirez) remains a strong support and lives in the basement of Joy’s home, as does her father Rudy (Robert de Niro), who has also moved back into the family home. 
The family interactions are all marked by amusing dialogue and well-drawn characters. The biting portrayal of the tackiness of cable shopping channels is one of the film’s strong points. Overall Joy is very entertaining, although the voice-over by Grandma Mimi can get confusing, and towards the end somehow the film tries too hard to tie up the ends, and make glib aphorisms about opportunity, success and American entrepreneurship.

Well worth seeing!

For a full review from Bernard Hemingway:

Sunday, 13 December 2015

It's that time of year where we reviewers start seeing all the really good stuff that's coming out in advance of awards season, along with the releases scheduled for Boxing Day and early New Year. We also start making our "Best of" lists! So, over the next few blogs I'll look at a couple of films I've just caught up with (belatedly), those upcoming releases I've already seen, and will regale you with my Best Of (in due course - there are still a few more to see and they might make the grade!) 

Mississippi Grind
Director: Anna Boden/Ryan Fleck
Length: 108 mins

Gerry (Ben Mendelsohn) is a hopeless gambler, down on his luck. He teams up with poker player Curtis (Ryan Reynolds) and the two take a road trip down the Mississippi River, hoping to win big time. While not a great deal happens in this film, the atmosphere of the grungy gambling haunts and cheap motels is beautifully evoked, the friendship between two very likeable guys works a treat, and I'm quite in awe of Mendelsohn's acting ability. For lovers of the understated road trip/gambling genre, it should entertain.

Worth a look!

For a full review from Bernard Hemingway:

Director: James Vanderbilt
Length: 125 mins

In 2004, on the eve of a US Presidential election, 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) aired a program which questioned George W Bush's military record. Her evidence proved to be not as water-tight as it should have and the resulting brouhaha cost her and a number of other employees their jobs. Notable was the resignation of Dan Rather (Robert Redford) who had anchored the program for 30 years. This film is a fabulously incisive look at journalistic ethics, the quest for truth, and the depressing way in which the powers that be always seem to win! 
All the cast (including a number of Aussies) are strong and Blanchett is simply stunning (again!) in this role. The suspense of the plot mounts as the film moves on, making it thrilling even for those who are not political animals.  

Definitely worth seeing!

For a full review from Bernard Hemingway:

The Belier Family
Director: Eric Lartigau
Length: 127 mins

A Boxing Day release - some sneak previews around now

If you like lightweight eccentric French comedy, this could be your bag. In a family where Mum, Dad and young brother are all hearing impaired, 16-year-old Paula has to be sign language translator, even in some very embarrassing situations. When it's discovered she has a talent for singing, she is encouraged by her teacher to make some radical changes to her life, creating conflict between her desires and her feelings of family duty.  The film features plenty of whacky comedy, some teenage angst, a lot of over-excited signing from Mama, and a memorable rendition of a song that sort of sums up the whole theme near the film's denouement.

Maybe worth seeing!

For my full review:

Thursday, 3 December 2015

As the year rockets towards a close I've seen some wonderful previews of films to release around Boxing Day or early in the New Year. Films like Suffragette, and The Danish Girl. But for now we have to make do with some of the more modest offerings that are out there, though I'm still desperately trying to play catch up to see those I've missed. (There IS a life outside of the cinema, you know!)  

Director: Christian Petzold
Length: 94 mins
It’s June 1945, the end of the war. Auschwitz survivor Nelly (Nina Hoss) returns to Berlin to look for her husband Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld) who believes his wife to be dead, and is after her inheritance. Here’s the twist: Nelly has suffered a facial injury and has undergone reconstructive surgery, such that she looks pretty good, but not enough for Johnny to recognise her. He suggests Nelly pretend to be his dead wife (well, she is!!) and they can go after the money. Hoss and Zehrfeld play their roles well, and the film looks fabulous. It has in fact won a heap of awards but for me there are fatal flaws in the plot that render the whole thing unbelievable. 

Maybe worth a look!

For a full review from Chris Thompson (with whom I totally agree):

By the Sea
Director: Angelina Jolie Pitt
Length: 132 mins

This is a tricky one to review. It could cynically be seen as a vehicle for the star couple – a million miles away from the action of Mr and Mrs Smith, but something emulating the style of 1950s European arthouse cinema, all moody looks, artfully framed shots, long silences, and plenty of marital angst. Ex-dancer Vanessa and writer Roland head to a French coastal village to try to revive their flagging marriage. It’s obvious something is seriously wrong, and Vanessa won’t let Roland near her. We constantly get moments of insight into Vanessa’s disturbed brain, but what she is remembering we only discover near the film’s conclusion. Things spark up when the couple meet Lea and Francois, a honeymooning pair in the adjoining villa, whom Vanessa and Roland take to observing through a spyhole in the wall. This film is erotic, stylised, self-conscious in parts, but something about it succeeds, and a welcome addition is Neils Arestrup as Michel, the local bar owner.

Worth a look!

For a full review from Bernard Hemingway:

Monday, 30 November 2015

The Program

Director: Stephen Frears
Length: 103 mins

We've already seen the doco on sport's big liar Lance Armstrong, now here's the feature film. Ben Foster is compelling as the infamous seven-time Tour de France winner who swore over and over that he'd never been found taking performance-enhancing drugs. Also strong is Chris O'Dowd as the dogged journalist who doesn't believe a word of it, and uncovers Lance's fraudulent nature. The film has some terrific recreations of the actual race, set in the glorious French countryside. In the early sections the film feels at times a bit rushed and like it's telling the narrative by numbers - but as the tension ramps up to Armstrong's public disgrace, it becomes quite gripping, and ultimately does justice to a shocking story of a fallen sporting hero

Worth a look!

For my full review:

Indievillage Doco Film Festival

Indievillage is a short documentary film festival screening over three days at the Lido Hawthorn and the Cameo Belgrave from Friday 4th to Sunday 6th of December
It's great to get a chance to view docos that don't reach the mainstream, but are of high quality with strong subject matter. I've caught a couple of worthwhile offerings:

The Dark Side of the Chew: An unexpected look at the dark side of chewing gum, from health problems through to water pollution and the major ecological costs of clean ups! Informative and amusingly presented. 
The VisitThought-provoking look at the implications of what could happen if earth was visited by extra-terrestrials. Scientists and other commentators put themselves in the hypothetical position, and the whole thing ends up being quite an alarming indictment of the human race.
The Chimpanzee Complex: Despite having some shonky camera work and being at times repetitive, this is an intriguing look at a Dutch facility, where volunteers and medical specialists help to rehabilitate traumatised chimps. I really felt like I was in the cage with the creatures, and for any chimp aficionados, this doc should be compulsory viewing.

Decidedly worth a look!

For full details and session times: