Thursday, 31 March 2016

Variety is the key word. From clever animation, to in-depth historical drama, and a fabulous film festival, there is, as always, something for everyone. And every one of them comes highly recommended. No duds this week.

Labyrinth of Lies  
Director: Giulio Ricciarelli
Length: 124 mins

© Madman
Another compelling Holocaust film, this time post-WW2. Young Frankfurt prosecutor, Johann Radmann, devotes himself to bringing to justice those "ordinary Germans" who had been involved in Auschwitz concentration camp, and are now trying to claim they had only been following orders. Radmann becomes so obsessed with his mission he nearly destroys himself and his relationships. Deftly blending historical fact with a personal story, this tense and moving film is an important examination of the guilt of a nation, and a reminder that complacency or duty are no excuses for being party to horrific crimes. 

4 - Wholeheartedly recommended!

For my full review:

Directors: Lots of 'em! 

Length: 108 mins

Surprise!! Here's an animation that is possibly one of the most delightful films I've seen so far this year. Kids and adults can equally enjoy this brilliantly scripted story of a young rabbit, Judy Hopps, who wants something more of her life than simply to be a carrot farmer. She heads to the metropolis of Zootopia, where predators and prey live in relative harmony. She trains as a police officer, only to be relegated to giving out parking tickets. But when she meets scam-artist, fox Nick Wiles, things take a turn for the better. The genius of this film is the way it gets its oh-so-relevant messages across. Gender discrimination, terrorism, racism, stereotyping, along with family values and life goals are all woven into the fabric of this funny, moving and ultimately uplifting story. The number of clever puns, visual gags, and references to other films will have you endlessly entertained, while the inventive blending of human traits into all the vibrantly animated  animals is nothing short of inspired
4 - Wholeheartedly recommended!

MQFF  - Melbourne Queer Film Festival
March 31 - April 11

This iconic Melbourne Festival has been running for 25 years, and showcases a fabulous collection of feature films, docos and shorts  from Australia and the world. In celebrating the LGBTIQ community, the festival entertains, educates, and reminds us that underneath any apparent differences we are all remarkably similar, and embracing difference is the only way to bring us closer. I've been lucky to preview a number of these exceptional films, so here are a few recommendations. 
Remembering the Man
If you loved Holding the Man (which I did) you mustn't miss this one, the Centrepiece film of the Festival. It's the real lives of Tim Conigrave and John Caleo, the young boys who fell in love in the homophobic 1970s, then had their lives destroyed by the AIDS virus. With precious archival video footage, insightful commentary by friends, this is a moving and poignant documentary. 

Deep Run
Impressive doco about young Jasmine, who knows from age 3 she is a man in a woman's body. Now living as a transgender man, Cole, he finds the prejudice of the local church in deeply religious North Carolina almost too much to cope with.

A deeply disturbing portrait of recreational drug use among gay men in today's London. Young men talk about loneliness, fear, alienation, HIV, and the terrible effect drugs are having on their lives, while health workers discuss what can be done to help. This is a confronting documentary.  

Mala Mala
Puerto Ricans live in a land where being a Latino macho male is revered. The nine people in this affectionate and fascinating doco all identify themselves as trans-gender.  They discuss their fears and hopes in a funny, moving insightful way, which can only lead to greater understanding of a complex issue. 

Portrait of a Serial Monogamist
A lightweight amusing lesbian comedy about Elise, who always leaves her lovers first, to avoid a broken heart. The Canadian film has all the hallmarks of  a typical rom-com, including an especially annoying Jewish mother. It's fun and witty, and something I'm sure everyone, whether straight or queer,  can relate to in their lives

The Festival: 4 - Wholeheartedly recommended!
Check out the program at

Thursday, 24 March 2016

What better to do with the free days over Easter than go to the movies? Again there's something for everyone in the new crop of releases. Just to refresh the new scoring system:

5/5              = Unmissable
4 to 4.5 / 5  = Wholeheartedly recommended
3 - 3.5 / 5    = Recommended 
2 - 2.5 / 5    = Maybe (you've got better things to do with your time)
Below 2      = well, that speaks for itself! 

Enjoy the break everyone!  

A Bigger Splash
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Length: 124 mins

© Studiocanal
This thoroughly entertaining film features a brilliantly  energetic  performance from Ralph Fiennes. You've never seen him like this before, as he plays record producer Harry, who turns up on a secluded Sicilian island where his ex-lover, rock legend Marianne (Tilda Swinton), is having a romantic escape with her current lover Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts). Harry brings along his recently discovered daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson), and the emotional fireworks that ensue are nothing short of high drama. The film is funny, and at times dark, but it is the taut performances, the engaging script and unexpected surprise ending that make it for me a really worthwhile watch. Swinton, as always, is a mesmerising screen presence.

For a full review from Chris Thompson:

Eye in the Sky
Director: Gavin Hood
Length: 102 mins

© Entertainment One
This vision of modern warfare, though fictional, is totally relevant to today's fraught world of war-torn countries and terrorist attacks. Helen Mirren plays Colonel Katherine Powell who has been tracking a cell of Kenyan-based terrorists affiliated with Al Shebab. Among them is a British woman who has converted to radical Islam, whom Powell hopes to capture alive. Through drone surveillance, Powell sees that a suicide attack is imminent and orders a missile strike. Land-based drone pilots Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) and Lucy Galvez (Kim Engelbrecht) are set to go, when a small girl selling bread parks herself outside the target house throwing the mission into chaos. So ensues a nightmare of administrative chains of command from England to the USA to Africa, with no-one wanting to take responsibility
The film explores the serious moral issue of killing by remote control, and making fraught decisions as to who should die in the interests of the greater good. The film is flawlessly executed and is a nail-baiting movie experience. Sadly, this is the last screen performance of Alan Rickman as General Frank Benson.


For a full review from Chris Thompson:

Our Last Tango
Director: German Kral
Length: 84 mins

For lovers of dance and tango, this feature documentary is unmissable. It reveals the lives of two renowned tango dancers from Argentina who partnered each other for 50 years, through love and hate, but always with an abiding passion for their art. 80-year old Maria Nieves, and Juan Carlos Copes, 83,  met as teenagers, and now they talk to the film-makers of their turbulent lives together. As they speak, the most dramatic and moving moments are re-enacted by other dancers, who transform the stories into moving tango-choreographies. The skill of all the dancers is simply mind-blowing, as is the incredible sensuality of the dance form.
4!  (Exclusive to Cinema Nova)

Batman vs Superman: The Dawn of Justice
Director: Zack Snyder
Length: 151 mins

Where to begin? It seems our two heroes have fallen out of favour with the public and politicians. Superman (Henry Cavill) is seen as an alien threat by some, and as a demi-God by others. Batman (Ben Affleck), apparently has got his cape in a twist about Superman's power.  Arch-villain Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) causes the usual mayhem, contriving a situation in which the two muscular heroes are forced to slug it out. But of course when a greater threat to mankind emerges, a united Superhero front must prevail, even bringing Wonderwoman (Gal Gadot) out of retirement.  
This latest superhero offering is overly long, pretentious in content, and not a patch upon the previous Batman movies. Affleck and Cavill act woodenly, and a miscast Eisenberg lacks the requisite villainy. The attempts to be politically relevant, the quasi-religious overtones with soaring music, and the waste of some excellent actors like Jeremy Irons, Laurence Fishburne, Amy Adams, Dianne Lane and Holly Hunter, make it all the more disappointing. Admittedly the action pieces are impressive, but I find myself horrified that such money is spent on this type of entertainment.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2
Director: Kirk Jones
Length: 94 mins

Unfortunately they're back! Toula (Nia Vardalos) and hubby Ian (John Corbett) now have a seventeen-year-old daughter Paris (Elena Koumporis), who is expected, like all Greek daughters to find a nice Greek husband. But the wedding that ensues is not one we would have expected. While the first film was reasonably fresh and funny, this one quickly wears out its welcome with serious stereotyping, and over-the-top cliched humour. While there is the odd insipid laugh, and Vardalos is always an amiable screen presence, the characters are generally annoyingly bland making it an almost an insult to Greeks!