Friday, 27 May 2016

Here's an odd assortment: a stupendous and unmissable exhibition on one of the modern era's greatest film-makers, Martin Scorsese, an important and disturbing doco on the shameful way in which our government treats refugees, and a (possibly) crowd-pleasing buddy/caper movie.
(Plus late addition of a brilliant New Zealand comedy, 
Hunt for the Wilderpeople).

ACMI presents Scorsese 
Photo courtesy ACMI
Cinephiles should not miss this spectacular insight into master filmmaker Martin Scorsese. The exhibition takes audiences through Scorsese's life, from his early influences in New York's Little Italy, through his entire filmmaking career. Background information is revelatory, including letters, storyboards, posters, and film stills along with fascinating early photos from the lives the Scorsese family - but best of all there are countless fabulously presented clips from most of his films, all organised in a way that underscores the themes that run through Scorsese's work.
Allow plenty of time for this expo - I spent nearly two hours there and could have spent much longer.
Along with the exhibition, ACMI will be running special film events and talks. Friday nights from June 17 until mid September will be Scorsese Cinema Nights, while the sublime film Hugo will be on constant offer.

Now until 18th September
For further details visit
5 - Unmissable!

Chasing Asylum
Director: Eva Orner
Length: 96 mins

Whatever your attitude to the refugee situation, you will not avoid being deeply affected by this disturbing documentary looking at Australia's treatment of refugees in detention. Using secret cameras, the film-makers have gone into the camps and produced never-before-seen footage of the horrendous conditions, which amount to a breach of basic human rights. Hearing the stories from those affected, those working in the camps, and even higher up officials who are totally disillusioned with the system is a sobering eye-opener. One can only hope this film will force some action to be taken.

4- Wholeheartedly recommended!

Full season now on at Cinema Nova Carlton, Sun Yarraville and Elsternwick Classic. 

The Nice Guys
Director: Shane Black
Length: 116 mins

Are these two interlopers also nice guys or film critics?
Ryan Gosling (Holland March) and Russell Crowe (Jackson Healy) team up in this private detective buddy caper that has delighted many critics, but has left me a bit ho-hum. The film is set in the 70s and centres around the attempt to find a missing girl who has been  trying to elude a bunch of scumbag crooks involved in the porn industry. For me the plot is seriously muddled, or maybe I'm missing something. However, a strength in the film comes from the drolly understated lines delivered by the two lead men, while most impressive is the performance of Angourie Rice as Holly March, Holland's 13-year-old daughter, a kid wise beyond her years and playing parent to the two blokes' childish antics. There are some fun chases, a lot of bad 70s fashion, but overall I didn't really care about anyone much except young Holly. 

2.5 - Maybe!

Hunt for the Wilderpeople 
Director: Taika Waititi
Length: 93 mins

This New Zealand comedy about a foster kid Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) is a total delight from go to whoa!  Ricky is a serial pest  who is sent to live with Bella and Hector (Sam Neill), but after a family tragedy, Hector and Ricky take to the the wilderness finding themselves on the run from the child care authorities. Everything works in this film, from the brilliant performances by Neill and Dennison, (and the entire cast!) to the often hilarious script with its gentle digs at all and sundry, while keeping a strong emotional underbelly that is real and very touching. The fabulous soundtrack and superb cinematography are an added bonus.   

4 - Wholeheartedly recommended!

For a full review from Chris Thomson:

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

There's not much new that I've seen this week.  For fans of the franchise, the big block-buster X-men Apocalypse is out, plus a couple of smaller offerings with limited releases. Visit for reviews of Harry and the Snowman, a heart-warming horse story, and Highly Strung, a tale for lovers of violins. 

However I'm here to tell you of an exciting new festival featuring films from America's independent filmmakers, and a long way from the mainstream of popcorn movie-going. 

Essential Independents: American Cinema, Now is showing at Palace Como and Palace Westgarth.  

32 films will screen, with fourteen of them having their premier in this two-week festival which opened yesterday, May 18th. 

From feature films to docos to experimental films there is something thought-provoking and excitingly fresh in all of this.  A few old favourites will also be there, including Blood Simple, The Virgin Suicides, Cruising, and Midnight Cowboy.

A couple I've personally previewed are:

Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures. A revealing and confronting doco on the famed photographer who died of AIDS back in the 1980s. This is top level-documentary making, outlining the artist's life and featuring the most stunning photos which shocked and amazed the world. Be warned: if you are at all prudish, you'll be alarmed.

(T)error: a most timely doco about an FBI informant who decides to invite a camera crew into his latest surveillance job. There is humour and tension, but ultimately a disturbing message about the prices being paid today for all the paranoia around security. 

We're Still Here: Johnny Cash's Bitter Tears Revisited: This is a must see for fans of Cash who once made a a critically unsuccessful album featuring protest songs about the American Indian. Today renowned musos like Emmy Lou Harris  and several other notables are remaking that album. 

Yosemite: A gentle and melancholy film about three young boys whose lives intersect as they move in the world between childhood and adolescence. Although nothing dramatic happens in this tale (based upon short stories by James Franco), there is something poignantly beautiful about the innocence of the boys' world, and the knowledge that bad things can and do happen. Definitely a film to immerse in and savour. 

To view the entire program visit:

And to book tickets visit:

Friday, 13 May 2016

This week brings a motley bag of films, with the standout being the extended season of Shakespeare Live (see my review last week). Horror slasher fans get a look in, as do maths buffs, while Atom Egoyan's latest, a sort of post-Holocaust revenge thriller, is an interesting watch.

Director: Atom Egoyan
Length: 94 mins

Fresh from the Holocaust Film Series, Atom Egoyan's latest gets a mainstream (limited) release. Christopher Plummer plays Zev, a Holocaust survivor with memory problems, residing in an old folks home. His buddy and fellow survivor Max (Martin Landau) reminds Zev that they made a pact to track down a brutal Auschwitz camp guard responsible for the deaths of their families and take revenge. Zev is sent out on the mission. There are a few plot holes that defy credibility, but overall this works well as a tense thriller, even with the odd humorous moments, and a ripper twist at the denouement. 

3 - Recommended!

Showing only at Elsternwick Classic, Lido, Sun Yarraville 

The Man Who Knew Infinity
Director: Matt Brown
Length: 108 mins

Another true story makes it to the movie screen, this time about a self-taught mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan (Dev Patel) who hailed from Madras India, and made it all the way to Cambridge to present his theories to renowned mathematician GH Hardy (Jeremy Irons). It's hard to bring maths to the big screen, and although the film makes a decent job of bringing in sub-plots of Ramanujan's love-sick wife, and the odd-fellow friendship between the genius and Hardy, it's difficult to completely immerse in this plot. However, that said, I always adore seeing Irons do his English gentleman thing, and young Patel manages to bring a level of emotion and  interest to his role. With strong support from the likes of Toby Jones and Jeremy Northam as Bertrand Russell it's still a worthwhile look at the rarefied world of  the intellectuals of the early 20th century. (And I love the film's title!)

3 - Recommended!

For a full review from Bernard Hemingway:

Shakespeare Live - update - more screenings! 
I raved last week about this unmissable film, and the short season has been extended. Here's another chance to catch it at Cinema Nova on:Saturday May 14, Sunday May 15, Tuesday May 17 and Wednesday May 18

5 - Absolutely unmissable!

The Green Room
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Length: 95 mins
Exclusive to Cinema Nova

A punk band head to a last-minute gig at a backwoods Oregon roadhouse. Some of the patrons resemble neo-Nazi thugs, but things start to get really hairy when one of the band members stumbles upon a grisly murder scene
It's hard for me to separate the content from the quality of the film. I guess if you are a fan of this sort of violent, terror-driven slasher film, then you'll find Green Room a worthy addition to the genre. Patrick Stewart certainly is superb as the ruthless owner of the club, and his minions are truly formidable. The youngsters defending themselves (to the death) are all absolutely believable, with Anton Yelchin and Imogen Poots especially fine, but it's just not my style of movie-going so it's hard for me to recommend. 

2.5 - Maybe - if that's your bag!

For a full review from Chris Thompson (who loves it!):

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

I'm leading off with an inspirational must-see gala theatrical performance, filmed in honour of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death. With a similar plot to the French film Marguerite, reviewed last week, we have Florence Foster Jenkins. Anthony LaPaglia returns in a low key but affecting Aussie film,  while auteur Nanni Moretti delves into the trauma created by the impending death of a parent.

Shakespeare Live
Length: 160 mins (maybe more if you get an interval!)
Don't miss it - only on Friday 6 May, Saturday 7 May, and Sunday 8 May (further screenings depending upon demand) 

Who'd have thought it? I am over the moon about Shakespeare. Upon the 400th anniversary of the Bard's death, the Royal Shakespeare Company put on a gala performance, the likes of which a Shakespeare fan can only dream of. Consummate Shakespearean actors such as Judi Dench, Ian McKellan, Helen Mirren and David Tennant, to name a few, along with numerous other members, perform iconic speeches from the best loved plays. Vocalists sing haunting songs based upon Shakespeare's words; so do hip-hop artists. Ballet dancers, modern jazz dancers and opera singers - all perform works inspired by the Bard. Comedy gets a run in a hilarious scene with Tim Minchin and other actors pondering where to put the stress in the line "To be or not to be". If ever I found difficulty in understanding the text, these brilliant performers have brought the words to life, and given me an epiphany in finally seeing just how important and influential and relevant this writer has been for four centuries. 

5 - Absolutely unmissable!

Florence Foster Jenkins
Director: Stephen Frears
Length: 110 mins

Hot on the heels of the French take on this story, (see my last week's blog) comes the delightful English language version, based on the real socialite of 1940s New York who fancied herself a talented opera singer, though her voice was atrocious. The ever-watchable, amazingly talented Meryl Streep plays Florence, with Hugh Grant as her adoring husband. There is more overt comedy in this version (though it is not without its pathos), but it lacks the dark, mysterious intrigue of the French film. It is a joy to see Grant back in form delivering an excellent performance, and the film is highly entertaining, from go to whoa. 

4 - Wholeheartedly recommended!

For a full review (hopefully) check out:

Month of Sundays
Director: Matthew Saville
Length: 109 mins

This is a low-key, heartfelt film about a middle-aged  Adelaide real-estate agent Frank (Anthony LaPaglia), who is struggling with every aspect of life. He can't cut loose from his ex-wife Wendy (Justine Clarke), has communication problems with his son, and his  job has become a total drag. When he gets a wrong-number phone call from Sarah (Julia Blake) who thinks he is her son, an odd-couple friendship is born, with Frank seeing Sarah as a mother figure (his own mother has died). This is understated film-making with a capital U, but there is plenty of subtle humour, true emotion, and ultimately a positive take on the how to overcome negativity and embrace life.  

3.5 - Recommended!

For a full review from Chris Thompson:

Mia Madre
Director: Nanni Moretti
Length: 106 mins

Nanni Moretti and Margherita Buy  - ©Palace Films
Another film focusing upon mother issues. Movie director Margherita is desperately trying to juggle her personal and professional life. Her ability to focus upon the film she is shooting becomes compromised, as her beloved mother is dying. She is also battling an egotistical lead actor (John Turturro), and trying to handle a moody teenage daughter. Director Moretti, who plays Margherita's brother, is excellent at capturing heavy emotions, and death of a parent is one of the heaviest and something many of us can relate to. The emphasis on the "film within a film" for me took up too much space, and detracted from the emotion, though it certainly commented upon the superficiality of the movie industry as compared to the nitty-gritty depth of real life. Overall this is worth seeing for the two award-winning performances from the female leads. 

3 - Recommended!

For my full review: