Thursday, 28 January 2016

And so it continues - another two excellent films that are in Oscar contention released this week.

Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Length: 118 mins

© Village Roadshow
A mother (Brie Larson) and her five-year old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay) live in a tiny two-room space, for reasons that become apparent as the film progresses. Despite their lives being anything but normal, Ma tries her best to give Jack a fulfilling and rich childhood, defined above all by her incredibly close bond with him. When the possibility of discovering "World", the larger life outside of "Room" arises, so does the chance to change their lives forever. 
If this sounds obscure it's meant to - the less you know about this brilliant film the better. It is rich with tension, emotion, and a gripping thought-provoking plot that will blow you away, as will the acting from young Tremblay and Academy Award-nominated Larson. As a testament to human adaptability, maternal love, and the wonder of childhood, this is a winner! 

Absolutely unmissable!

For a full review from Bernard Hemingway:

Director: Tom McCarthy
Length: 128 mins

© Getty Images
Boston 2001: four investigative journalists are charged to delve into the abuse of children by priests. Their tireless and incisive research reveals that this is not a case of a few individual priests being guilty, but an almost systemic problem that appears to be known of and covered up by the higher echelons of the Catholic Church. There's an old-fashioned solid sensibility to this film - less sensationalism, but more a revealing depiction of what it means for a newspaper team to unearth the evidence to blow a case wide open. With emphasis more on the research than on the victims or the perpetrators, the film is more cerebral than emotional. The script is tight and the lead actors, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Brian D'Arcy James, Stanley Tucci and Liev Schreiber are all spot on.

Totally worth seeing!

For a full review from Chris Thompson:

Thursday, 21 January 2016

The Oscar nominations are out, and the race is on!! (check it out at Last year Eddie Redmayne won Best Actor for his role in The Theory of Everything. This year he's nominated for The Danish girl. Can he do it again? 

The Danish Girl
Director: Tom Hooper
Length: 120 mins

© Universal Pictures
Based on a true story set in Copenhagen of the1920s: Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) and his wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander), both artists, seem the perfect pair, until Einar gradually realises he is really a woman inside a man's body. With the love and support of Gerda he eventually allows his inner gal, Lili Elbe to emerge, which leads him to become the first known case of gender-reassignment surgery in the world. Redmayne shows again what a sublime talent he is, and Vikander is exceptional as his Bohemian wife. The film delicately but compellingly handles Einar's emotional transition to womanhood, but doesn't dwell much upon the medical side of things. Overall it is a poignant insight into the whole notion of trans-genderism (very topical these days), at the same time sitting firmly in the love story genre. (Take your tissues!)

Don't miss it!

For a full review from Chris Thompson (I like it way more than he does):

Looking for Grace
Director: Sue Brooks
Length: 127 mins

© Palace Films
Grace (Odessa Young) runs away from home in Perth with a friend and with a large sum of her father's money. Parents Radha Mitchell and Richard Roxburgh drive out in frantic pursuit, with the help of a retired detective, played by veteran Terry Norris.

I really wanted to like this film, as I loved Japanese Story (same director) some years back. But I find myself a bit baffled by the timeline, not really engaging much with the characters, and sensing an uneven tone in the film  as it lurches between drama, comedy, marital soap opera and more. The film's strengths are definitely seeing Mitchell and Roxburgh back on the big screen (they are excellent), a few good comic scenes, and the overwhelmingly beautiful cinematography featuring the vast expanses of the Aussie landscape. 

Maybe! (It's always good to support our Aussie industry!)

For my full review:

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Great to see Leonardo di Caprio finally get acknowledgment at the Golden Globes for a great performance in The Revenant (see last week's blog). Not to mention Innaritu for Best Direction and Best Film. This week another slew of top quality films releases. Here goes!

Director: Todd Haynes
Length: 118 mins

Carol (Cate Blanchett) is an elegant 1950s housewife who gets herself intimately involved with a younger woman, Therese, (Rooney Mara) who works at a department store but aspires to be a photographer. Director Haynes handles this intense love story, set in an era when lesbian relationships were not spoken of, with delicacy, style and poignancy. The look of the era is magnificent, as are the two leads, Blanchett with her cool, slightly aloof demeanour, and Mara bringing an innocence and heartbreak to  Therese, smitten and totally in love with an older married woman. Prepare to be swept up in a compelling love story!

Totally worth seeing!

For a full review from Bernard Hemingway (not as smitten as I):

Serial (Bad) Weddings
Director: Philippe de Chauveron
Length: 97 mins

For someone who generally doesn't enjoy French comedy, I really loved this film I just stumbled upon (it was previously part of the Jewish International Film Festival, but now has a small release). 
The Verneuil family (white, blue-blood French and Catholic) has four daughters. One is married to a French Chinese, another to a French Arab, and another to a French Jew. At family gatherings the prejudices flow fast and furious, but finally a truce bordering on friendship is reached, that is until the fourth daughter decides to marry a French African. This film has achieved what unIndian and Alex and Eve tried, in an Aussie context, unsuccessfully to do. It is charming, consistently funny, delightfully captures (without offence) various ethnic traits, and by the end is incredibly touching. A real winner. 

Absolutely worth seeing. (Elsternwick's Classic still has it for another week at least)

The Big Short
Director: Adam McKay
Length: 130 mins

This one is really ahead of the pack, with an eye-popping cast of Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling. Even if you feel you are an econo-klutz (someone with zero knowledge of markets and financial crises), you can still be highly entertained and thrilled by this ingenious film, which takes a comedic/dramatic approach to what happened when the bum fell out of the US housing market, precipitating the GFC. The four leads play a quartet of prescient guys who saw what was about to happen, and as the big bankers and brokers shafted Mainstreet US citizens, these guys shafted the Wall Street financiers, and in the process made a fortune for themselves. The film is funny, well scripted and yet another worthy addition to the many films inspired by the economic dramas of 2008. 

Absolutely worth seeing!

For a full review from Chris Thompson:

The Hateful Eight
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Length: 187 mins

People seem to love or hate Tarantino's films. He's a maestro when it comes to blood and gore, and this one is no exception. A stagecoach carrying bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell), and his prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is flagged down first by Major Warren (Samuel L Jackson), then by Chris Mannix (Walter Goggins) who is on his way to Red Rock to become the next Sheriff. A blizzard forces them to hole up at a Wyoming inn where a quartet of questionable characters is already esconced - an English toff, a cowboy, a Mexican and a retired General, played by Tim Roth, Michael Madsen,  Demian Bichir and Bruce Dern. These eight live up to the title - they are each totally despicable in their own way. Misogynistic violence towards Daisy is rampant, racist remarks flow, as does the blood in the film's second half. It's all shot in  old-fashioned 70 mm, so looks stunning, the acting is universally great, Ennio Morricone wrote the evocative music, there's a lot of wit in the script, and Tarantino is a master craftsman, but with an almost adolescent delight in over-the-top violence.  The film may be trying to make some philosophical points about American history and race relations, but Django Unchained did it better. 

Worth seeing, if you love blood and gore - or are a die-hard Tarantino fan!

For a full review from Bernard Hemingway

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Well the festivities are over and it's time to knuckle down and start watching and reviewing. We're heading into what's known as the awards season, so many of the top contenders are releasing and jockeying for recognition. There's a swag of absolutely top notch films coming out over the next few weeks, so let's get started. 

The Revenant
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu
Length: 156 mins

In the American wilderness in the early 1800s, fur-trapper Hugh Glass (Leonardo Di Caprio) survives an attack by Indians, then a near-death mauling by a bear, only to be left for dead by members of his own hunting party. This is a tense, visceral, immersive cinema experience, not for the faint-hearted! The cinematography featuring a near pristine wilderness is inspirational, and it's real - no digital recreations here (except for the bear scene). You'll also be inspired by di Caprio's gut-churning performance, as he painfully grunts, groans, and crawls his way through the horrific events that befall him. He is driven on by the need to survive, a near spiritual connection to his dead wife, and revenge against the man who betrayed him, Fitzgerald (another unrecognisable Tom Hardy performance). Given that the film is actually based on an incredible true tale, it is a searing insight into the power of survival, and what humans are capable of when stripped to the bare bones of determination. This is epic film-making at its best.

Unmissable (if you have the stomach for it)!

For a full review from Bernard Hemingway:

Sherlock: The Abominable Bride
Director: Douglas Mackinnon
Length: 90 mins

If you've been a fan of the TV series with the talented Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes, you won't want to miss this feature length episode, which has already screened as a one-off  in various cinemas world-wide, but should be sourceable on pay networks. In this ep, the modern day Sherlock goes on a drug-induced trip into the past where he grapples with a seemingly impossible case of a woman, dressed as a bride, who blows her brains out then returns the following night to murder her husband. Acting all round is top-notch, scripting and plot are super-smart, the period settings are fun, and Holmes is, as ever, my favourite clever Dick!  

Definitely worth tracking down!

Stay tuned for reviews of:
The Big Short
The Danish Girl - all wonderful, and all releasing during the month of January!