Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Hail Caesar
Director: Joel & Ethan Coen
Length: 105 mins

© Universal Pictures
While not the Coens' best film, there is still a lot of fun to be had with this mad-cap story of Hollywood studio executive Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), whose job it is to keep a good image for Capitol Pictures and its stars. When A-lister Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is kidnapped in the middle of filming Hail Caesar, mayhem ensues. With this film I feel the Coens are paying homage to the major Hollywood genres they love - swords and sandals epics, aqua-musicals (featuring Scarlett Johansson in a mermaid suit), and toe-tapping spectacles, with Channing Tatum leading a delightful tap-dancing sailor routine. Throw in Tilda Swinton as a pair of twins, both Hollywood gossip columnists, and you have a terrific cast, in a mish-mash collection of episodes that never quite feel unified, but provide plenty of amusement. (But just why so much was shown in the film's shorts I'll never know - sort of spoilt some terrific scenes!)

Worth seeing!

For a full review from Bernard Hemingway:

Director: Naji Abu Nowar
Length: 100 mins

© Fortissimo Films & Lido
If you loved Lawrence of Arabia you must not miss Theeb. It's the story of a young Arab boy, Theeb,  living in the remote desert in the time of the Ottoman Empire. The lad accompanies his brother on a dangerous trek, and as a result he is forced to grow up in a hurry and learn some harsh truths about who you can and can't trust. This is a slow and measured film, taking its time to establish the way of life of the Bedouin, and, through its magnificent cinematography the feel of the vast, unforgiving desert. The film captured me with its many wondrous camels, tense gunfights with raiding nomads, majestic wadis and undulating sands, but it is also a moving story of family, tradition and a way of life fast disappearing.  

Totally worth seeing! Exclusive to Lido, Hawthorn.

For my full review:

Thursday, 18 February 2016

You may wonder why so many of my reviews give a good rap to so many of the films,  and so few are negative. Well, I'm in the lucky position of not being compelled to see everything - I pick and choose and generally only choose what sounds promising. I'm not much into what I call popcorn movies - those big noisy blockbusters, or crude teen flicks - which is not to say there haven't been a few gems in that genre over the years. I call it like I see it, and for the most part it's the more serious stuff that calls to me, and I end up liking it - a lot!  


45 years 
Director: Andrew Haigh
Length: 96 mins

© Madman
How can you pass up a film with Charlotte Rampling (who is also nominated for a Best Actress for this role!) She plays Kate Mercer, married for 45 years to crusty old Geoff (Tom Courtney). As their party planning is in full swing, a disturbing piece of news comes to light. The body of Tom's ex-girlfriend, killed falling down a crevasse 50 years ago, has been found. The disturbance to this seemingly solid marriage is palpable, as Tom starts dwelling on the past, and Kate unearths secrets that prove her husband has been less than honest. This is classy film-making, with two of Britain's top actors giving it their all. Beware - it may stir up trouble in your household! 

Absolutely worth seeing!

For my full review:

Director: Jay Roach
Length: 124 mins

© Entertainment One
If you loved him in TV's Breaking Bad you'll be thrilled to see he is in contention for Best Actor at the 2016 Oscars. Bryan Cranston plays Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, one of many movie folk blacklisted back in the 1950s for his supposed "un-American" and Communist activities. The fun part is that, while banned, Trumbo still managed to keep writing (under pseudonyms), and even win a couple of Oscars!  Cranston is charismatic as the chain-smoking Trumbo, with Helen Mirren as gossip journalist Hedda Hopper, and Diane Lane as Trumbo's supportive wife. The era is superbly recreated, with some terrific sequences featuring notable Hollywood personalities of the day. "Commie-bashing", with its  paranoia and irrationality, has resonance for today's world. Another strong film, not without amusing moments,  about people with strength to stand up for their beliefs.

Definitely worth seeing!

For a full review from Chris Thompson:

Director: Peter Landesman
Length: 124 mins

© Village Roadshow
Will Smith plays real-life Pittsburgh coroner Bennet Omalu who discovered, in 2002, the connection between professional football and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a brain injury acquired from too many head knocks. After several ex-players start behaving crazily or commit suicide, Omalu does some serious research to discover why.  
Smith, in one of his best roles yet, portrays a gentle but determined man who takes on the corporate giant that is the National Football League. The film sports medical detail, a solid tense plot, a good moral stoush, and a fine cast of supporting actors including Alec Baldwin, Albert Brooks, David Morse,  and the beautiful Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Omalu's wife. Concussion is powerful, and no need to be a footy fan to get its importance (not the least for AFL players here).  

Definitely worth seeing!

For my full review:

Felix and Meira
Director: Maxime Giroux
Length: 105 mins

© Metafilms, JIFF and Lido
A delicate Canadian film from this year's JIFF (Jewish International Film Festival), portrays young Hassidic wife and mother, Meira, who feels trapped in her oppressive marriage. Her strict husband won't even allow her to listen to music. Walking out with pram and baby, Meira meets Felix, still Jewish, but much less religious, and a friendship slowly blossoms. This is a finely observed and very moving film that speaks to the possibilities of life outside of that which one knows - the idea that people can be different yet still connect. Impressive cinematography and lovely performances make this a gentle treat.

Well worth seeing!
Showing now exclusive to Lido Hawthorn.

Monday, 15 February 2016

I'm excitedly counting down to the Oscars. All three films reviewed here are in contention.
Brooklyn is simply sublime, Fassbender gives a tour de force performance in Steve Jobs, while the animation Anomalisa is a little weird for my taste.

Director: John Crowley
Length: 112 mins

© Transmission Films
This exquisite film tells the story of Irish lass Eilis (Saiorse Ronan) who emigrates to New York in search of a better life. After initial homesickness, things take a turn for the better when she meets Italian-American Tony. But when circumstances lead her to return home for a while she finds herself caught between two possible lives and two men. Everything about Brooklyn works - from the spot-on period recreations and glorious cinematography, through to the heart-wrenching story which seems as fresh today as in the 1950s where it is set. Ronan's central performance is a revelation, and every small role sits perfectly around her. There's romance, sadness, social history, humour - and a calm, measured beauty about every aspect of this stunning film.

Absolutely and totally unmissable!

For my full review:

Steve Jobs
Director: Danny Boyle
Length: 122 mins

© Universal Pictures

Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) was the man behind the Macintosh computer. This compelling new film (way better than Jobs several years ago) looks at three critical times in Jobs' life, all involved with product launches, examines the genius in the man's vision, along with the flaws in his nature that made his interpersonal relationships so fraught. Key among his personal issues was his refusal to acknowledge his illegitimate daughter, and the progress of this relationship is beautifully handled. Fassbender is deservedly up for an Oscar with his mesmerising performance, as is Kate Winslett playing his trusty personal assistant. Even Seth Rogen plays convincingly against type as Steve Wozniak, one of Jobs' earliest collaborators and software writers, a man (along with many others) never adequately acknowledged for his contribution. This is biopic making at the top of its game, (with director Boyle and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin why wouldn't it be?) and a fascinating insight into an iconic man of the 20th century

Totally worth seeing!

For a full review from Bernard Hemingway:

Director: Charlie Kaufmann
Length: 90 mins

© Paramount Pictures - Check out the puppet artistry!
Kaufmann is certainly an alternate filmmaker with such films as Being John Malkovitch and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to his name. Little wonder that his latest, nominated for a Best Animation at this year's Oscars, is also something out of the ordinary. Amazingly, it's all done with stop-motion puppets, so that's a technical feat in itself. The puppets are so real you think you are seeing real people, but it leaves me wondering why did he not choose live actors, at least for the two leads. The story is of motivational writer Michael (voiced by David Thewlis) who meets Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) at a conference, and they fall in love. (Think weird puppet sex!)  Everyone else in the world is literally all the one person - same faces, and same voice (that of Tom Noonan). I admit Kaufmann is probably trying to convey some weighty themes of alienation and societal homogeneity, and while I was not bored, I found myself less than engaged with the characters, although the puppetry seriously impressed me.

Maybe worth seeing - if you're a puppetophile or a Kaufmann aficionado!

For a full review from Bernard Hemingway: