Thursday, 28 July 2016

July 28th - this week:  
Embrace of the Serpent
The Second Mother
Jason Bourne

This week's releases will have to compete with the biggest thing in film: MIFF. Our homegrown 65-year-old festival is off and running after a splendiferous opening night which premiered the intriguing Melbourne-based film The Death and Life  of Otto Bloom. So if you're not too busy checking out the festival offerings ( there are a couple here really worth seeing. 

Embrace of the Serpent
Director: Ciro Guerra
Length: 124 mins

Set in the Amazon jungle in two different time frames, this remarkable film almost defies categorisation. It is based upon the true travels of two adventurers. The first was ethnologist  Theo Koch Grunberg in the early 1900s and the second  botanist Richard Schultes 40 years later.  In this powerful filmic reimagining of their stories, both men meet Karamakate, a solitary shaman, who in the past and present leads the men into the jungle in search of healing and sacred plants. The film deals with first contact between whites and these remote tribes, unexpected friendships that develop, and the associated issues of trust, brutality, betrayal, and misguided Christianity. Ultimately it is about respect for a culture that is so often misrepresented. This is possibly one of the most unusual films I've seen in many years, but if you allow yourself to be taken on the adventure it makes for compelling viewing. 

4.5 - Wholeheartedly recommended!
For a full review from ChrisThompson:

The Second Mother
Director: Anna Muylaert
Length: 115 mins
Exclusive to Cinema Nova

© Globo Films Cinema Nova - Regina Case blitzes in the role!
In Brazil class barriers are alive and well, as seen in this story of live-in nanny and housekeeper Val. She's like a mum to Fabinho, the son of wealthy Carlos and Barbara, while her own daughter Jessica is looked after by relatives. Val knows her place in society - they are the bosses and she is the servant - that is until Jessica comes to stay with her and life is turned upside down. Val is superbly acted by Regina Case, who has won several awards for her performance. The warmly engaging story is entertaining, while also being a thought-provoking look at what could possibly be seen as modern slavery. 

4 - Wholeheartedly recommended!!
For my full review: 

Jason Bourne
Director: Paul Greengrass
Length: 123 mins

© Universal - it's all action from start to finish
Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is back, living off the grid and surviving as a free-fighter in northern Greece. When fellow ex-CIA agent Nicky gets hold of some "black ops" files all hell breaks loose with CIA director (Tommy Lee Jones), computer whizzkid (Alicia Vikander) and hired killer (Vincent Cassell) on the trail of Nicky and Bourne. 
What can I tell you? The action never lets up, and the settings are pleasing. Some segments such as the opening Athens riots are immersively engaging, but when it got to the totally ludicrous and overly long car chases, it lost me. I'm not saying it's a badly made film - it keeps the viewer in the moment, and I believe there is definitely an audience for this genre of film. Unfortunately it's not my genre and by the end I didn't really care about any of the characters. (Was great to see the gorgeous Vikander, however!)    

2.5 - Maybe!!
For a full review from a colleague who seemed to like it a lot more than I did, go to:
And of course from Cinephilia's Bernard Hemingway:

Thursday, 21 July 2016

July 21st - this week:  
Love and Friendship

It seems I and my colleague at are quite at odds with how we perceived the two films I review this week. There are so many factors in how to assess a film and I tend to go for the emotions - if it moves me and/or entertains me, then that makes me feel favourably disposed, while I find it hard to get on board with films that don't convince me plot-wise or fail to touch a heart string (even if they are worthy in other ways)! 

Love & Friendship
Director: Whit Stillman
Length: 92 mins

© Transmission - Aussie heart-throb Xavier Samuel charms the gals
I've never been a huge fan of the mannered style of Jane Austen's films or novels, despite their pointed digs at societal mores of the 18th century. However this latest film, based upon an Austen novella, has amused me well. It's a deliciously mischievous story of Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale), widow and arch-manipulator, who sets out to find a wealthy husband for herself and her daughter Federica. The film looks good, and sports a strong cast, (including new Aussie heart-throb Xavier Samuel), with the stand-out being Beckinsale.  The dialogue, a mix of witty, biting and sometimes downright silly,  makes for plenty of laughsDon't be deterred by the plethora of characters thrown at you in the opening scenes, they soon sort themselves out! 

3 - Recommended!
For a full review from Bernard Hemingway:

Director: Jean Marc Vallee
Length: 101 mins

© 20th Century Fox
Wealthy financier Davis (Jake Gyllenhaal) loses his  wife in a car accident. He goes into total denial, carrying on as if nothing has happened. But gradually his life unravels, as he starts to vent his repressed feelings by demolishing all manner of things. He alienates his father -in-law (the ever-watchable Chris Cooper), and makes new friends with Karen (Naomi Watts), who works for a vending machine company (to which he is writing complaint letters).  Through his relationship  with Karen and her off-beat young son Chris (Juddah Lewis), Davis gradually gets in touch with his feelings. There is a lot to like here, especially the fine performances, BUT I had a huge problem with the credibility of the central plot concept of Davis taking a sledgehammer to his very ritzy house. Just didn't ring true for me, nor did his totally irresponsible dealings with the kid. Still, for fans of quirky left-of-centre films and the spunky Jake G, it could be a goer.     

2.5 - Maybe!
For a full review from Bernard Hemingway:

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

July 14th  - this week:  
Sing Street
Our Kind of Traitor
Maggie's Plan 
Gold Coast (one more from the Scandi Film Fest)

This week again brings a wonderful variety of top-notch viewing - a thriller, a New York wry comedy, a Danish historical drama, and an Irish film about music guaranteed to make you smile throughout and for hours afterwards. 

Sing Street
Director:John Carney
Length: 106 mins

© FilmNation -  Roadshow
If you loved Once or Begin Again, you'll go wild for Sing Street. Based upon the director's adolescence in Dublin, the story follows Conor, (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) a private school kid who's forced to go to a rough local school. His folks are on the brink of divorce, he's bullied at the new school so he escapes his troubles by setting up a band. He and his pals, including the gorgeous Raphina (upon whom he has a big crush), make music videos, write their own songs, and discover their talent and their individuality
This joyous film put a smile on my face from the outset. It's an uplifting celebration of the optimism of youth, first love, cheesy 80s fashion, and of course the power of music and creativity. The kids are all a delight, the soundtrack is magnificent, and I simply loved it!
4.5 - Wholeheartedly recommended!
For a full review from Bernard Hemingway:

Our Kind of Traitor
Director: Susanna White
Length: 107 mins
© StudioCanal - Stellan S. gives a stand-out performance
Mild-mannered poetry professor Perry (Ewan McGregor) is on holiday in Marrrakesh with his wife Gail (Naomie Harris). There they meet Dima, (Stellan Skarsgaard) a flamboyant Russian who asks Perry to take a memory stick back to the UK and hand it over to MI 6. Why on earth naive travellers would agree to do such a dangerous (stupid?) thing is beyond me, but the fact that Perry does makes for a solidly thrilling film! Based on a John le Carre novel, it's a well-acted nail-biter, with fabulous visual settings (Morocco, French Alps, Switzerland and more), and a plot that has resonance for today's global world where politics (often dirty) and finance seem inextricably intertwined.  A better-than-average thriller (namely, I could follow it!), this makes for an exciting cinema visit. 

3.5 - Recommended!
For my full review:

Maggie's Plan
Director:Rebecca Miller
Length: 98 mins

Maggie (Greta Gerwig) is planning to be a single mum (using donor sperm from her friend Guy) when she falls for married man John (Ethan Hawke), their affair ending John's marriage to Georgette (Julieanne Moore). Three years and one kid later Maggie is somewhat disillusioned and devises another plan to get John and Georgette back together. This is a witty script, reminiscent of some of Woody Allen's films, with pseudo-intellectuals rabbiting on about unintelligible stuff, and everyone trying to be uber-cool in a New York kinda way. There are plenty of wry laughs, and a lot of digs at self-absorbed men, control freak women and the pitfalls of marriages between the two types. Moore, Gerwig and Hawke are all excellent in their roles in this ultimately light-weight but very entertaining story.
3.5 - Recommended!
For a full review from Chris Thompson:

Gold Coast
(One more from the Scandinavian Film Festival)
Maybe I left the best till last! This award-winning historical drama tells of Denmark's involvement in the 1800s in setting up coffee plantations on the Ghanaian coast of Africa. Young botanist Wulff works closely with the natives, but soon becomes aware that the level of exploitation by the ruling Danes of the locals is horrific. Gold Coast is a disturbing and richly textured film about a brave man's idealistic fight against colonialism. It is stunningly shot, excellently acted and all complemented by a magnificent score by Angelo Badalamenti.
Your chance to catch it:
Palace Westgarth: July 19 - 6.30 pm
Palace Brighton Bay: July 25 - 6.30 pm