Tuesday, 25 July 2017

July 27 2017
A Monster Calls
War for the Planet of the Apes
MIFF - early tips!

More excellent films this week: human drama/fantasy; top-notch blockbuster fare and  a sneak peek at the upcoming Melbourne International Film Festival. Music lovers rush out for your tickets - there are some seriously  unmissable documentaries to revel in. 

A Monster Calls
Director: J.A.Bayona
Length: 108 min
© E-one - a gentle, touching, sad and inspiring
story of a boy summoning up his courage
How do I classify this beautiful film that falls somewhere between a child's fable, a coming of age story, a family drama and a metaphor for facing the darkest nights of one's soul? Twelve-year-old Conor (Lewis MacDougall) is bullied at school, misses his remarried Dad and is struggling with his mother's terminal illness. Somehow, through dreams, drawings and imagination, he conjures up a monster (voiced by Liam Neeson), fashioned from an old yew tree beyond his window. Through a series of visits and salutary tales, the monster helps Liam to understand certain basic truths in life, and to face his own worst fears. Employing a mix of real actors, exquisite paintings and impressive special effects, this film employs a terrific narrative, as well as an embodiment of something we can all relate to: the child within us all who is scared of losing that which we love most. There is a wonderful surprise in Sigourney Weaver as the seemingly forbidding Grandma, and Felicity Jones is at her tear-wrenching best as the fragile loving mother. Take tissues!
4 - highly recommended!

War for the Planet of the Apes
Director: Matt Reeves 
Length: 140 min
©20th Century fox - xxx
This is the third in the "reboot" Planet of the Apes film series which began in 2011: Rise of POA , Dawn of POA and now this one. You know I'm not usually a blockbuster sort of gal, but I am seriously impressed on a number of levels by this entire series of remakes.  The story stands tall with many "human" war epics - with themes of revenge, lack of communication, oppression, integrity, betrayal, and survival. Leader of the apes, Caesar, is again played by the talented Andy Serkis, and whatever digital motion capture wizardry is at work, it is awesome, giving rise to a completely credible character. Caesar suffers huge personal tragedy and comes to question whether he can still pursue his attempts to make peace with humans. All the apes are represented so well that we end up believing we are watching a human drama play out. The homo sapiens are ruthless, with Woody Harrelson almost channeling the crazy Col Kurtz from Apocalyse Now. The battle sequences are top-notch, the emotions palpable, and the themes thought-provoking. It's a winner cinematic experience. 
4 - highly recommended!

MIFF alert - some unmissable docos!!
Melbourne International Film Festival opens next week. It's time to get planning what you want to see. To kick start you I've got a few strong recommendations that will particularly please music fans!

Chasing Trane: For fans of genius jazz saxophonist John Coltrane, this doco is unmissable. With Denzel Washington speaking Coltrane's own words, the film traces the man's life and musical inspiration. Many other musicians including Santana, and ex-President Bill Clinton give wonderful insights into Coltrane, allowing even novices to understand the man's genius.  
Two Trains Running: This doco is a brilliant juxtaposition of two story threads: the search by young college students to find two legendary lost blues musicians, Son House and Skip James, is set against the deep racial unrest in America's south in the 1960s. The historical facts are tragically disturbing, and the blues music is uplifting. The use of archival footage and interweaving of the stories is masterfully executed. 
Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World: Who would have known that so many iconic rock musicians are of indigenous American Indian heritage? This high energy informative doco provides an eye-opening slant on the lives of these musos, and on the issue of color and racial heritage in the USA. Chock full of interviews, musical clips and stunning archival footage (some as old as early twentieth century), this is a brilliant film to entertain and inform. 
Pecking Order: The only music here is poultry song! This is a sweet and amusing doco about a New Zealand poultry club preparing for its annual show. Feathers are ruffled with vicious competition and internal politics.  Chook lovers will delight in this fowl version of Best in Show! 

To further explore the wondrous offerings of MIFF, go to www.miff.com.au

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