Thursday, 9 June 2016

This week there's mainstream mayhem with hostage drama Money Monster, a splendid comedy/drama of aid workers in the Balkans, a truly scary horror movie, and a festival of top documentaries.

A Perfect Day 
Director: Fernando Leon de Aranoa
Length: 106 minutes

© Madman - Robbins and del Toro make a great team
Three aid workers, B (Tim Robbins), Membru (Benicio del Toro) and Sophie (Melanie Thierry) are working against the clock to remove a dead body from a village well somewhere in the war-torn Balkans. What should be a simple task turns into a nightmare  - of bureaucracy, obstructionism, military intervention and more. This terrifically engaging film defies genre - it's not a war film per se, more a human story of  perseverance and dedication alongside futility and cynicism, all underscored by a droll humour and many tense and touching moments. This is entertaining and  thought-provoking cinema, a million miles removed from the American mainstream.

Exclusive to Cinema Nova 
4 - Highly Recommended!

For a full review from Chris Thompson

HotDocs at Palace 
Running from June 14-July 3

I've always loved docos, and a festival devoted to them is a treat. Hot from Toronto, the biggest doco festival in North America now  teams up with Palace Australia to bring innovative and fresh films that can change the way we see the world
From my viewing so far the one that blows me away  is:
I am the Blues: A MUST-SEE for fans of the genre, this is a musical journey into America's deep south, where legendary blues musicians talk about their lives and their passion for the music. We meet old folks (some so hard to understand we need subtitles!) who still play with the skill and energy of youth. They gather on porches, in towns and on the bayous of Mississipi to revel in the blues music and tell tales of a life that has inspired the music.

Also seen (so far - I'm still watching) are:
T-Rex:  Claressa "T-Rex" Shields started boxing at age 11, and went on to become the youngest member of the 2012 Olympic boxing team. An insightful story of commitment and rising above the odds.
Orion: the Man Who Would be King:  Jimmy Ellis was an obscure singer with an voice uncannily like that of Elvis. This is the bizarre story of his exploitation by a record company, along with the fame, delusion and disappointment that dogged his life. 
Diving into the Unknown: If anything could give you claustrophobia, this gripping story of five Finnish cave divers will. A dive goes wrong and the remaining members of the team return to the cave to retrieve the bodies of their companions. 

4 - Wholeheartedly recommended!

To view the full program go to:

The Conjuring 2
Director: James Wan
Length: 140 minutes

This (supposedly true) story comes from the files of paranormal investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) who go to Enfield England to investigate a case of single mother Peggy (Frances O'Connor) whose children are haunted by a malicious ghost. The youngest child begins to show signs of demonic possession.  I'm not normally a horror fan, but thought I'd give this a go. It reminded me of the good ol' days, before the slasher/horror genre took hold, where fear came from things unseen rather than blood, gore and lunatics. Think films like Dead of Night, The Turn of the Screw and The Exorcist. It's probably overly long, and makes use of every filmic cliche the genre can throw at you (squeaky door, objects flying through the air, mirrors with false reflections etc etc), but I was genuinely scared, and it is extremely well made with strong performances, especially by the kids

3.5 - Recommended!

Money Monster
Director: Jodie Foster
Length: 95 minutes

George Clooney plays Lee Gates, flamboyant front man for a TV show about the stock market. One evening, live on air, Lee is taken hostage by distraught Kyle Budwell (Jack O'Connell), a disillusioned investor who lost all his money after taking Lee's advice. The drama unfolds in real time with SWAT teams, voyeuristic onlookers, and Lee's loyal and calm producer Patty (Julia Roberts) coaching him on how to survive the crisis.
Clooney is always a pleasure to watch, Roberts is as we expect, and the plot should strike a chord with many viewers (and investors!) While entertaining, unfortunately, it's executed in a cliched manner, with too much unbelievability. Occasionally what should be really tense moments end up being laughable, and while the sentiments expressed are heartfelt the film ends up too much like  a mainstream action film rather than a social commentary. (If you want serious financial crisis insights, watch a film like 99 Homes).

2.5 - Maybe!

For a full review from Bernard Hemingway:

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