Wednesday, 10 August 2022

 August 11th

The Princess
The Conference
Finding Graceland (streaming on SBS On Demand - 3 weeks left)
More MIFF: Il Buco; The Real Charlie Chaplin; Mass


Oh yeah!! More fantastic films this week, in cinemas, at MIFF and in your lounge room. When I ponder this week's offerings, there really is such a lot to be gleaned about life, from the best of it to the depths of it. 

The Princess
Dir: Ed Perkins
Length: 109  mins
© Madman - interesting footage gives
a new perspective on Diana
While I hear some people sigh, "Oh no, not another film on Princess Diana", this one is surprisingly engaging. It draws on footage taken at the time, and so makes for a narrative mood almost like an immersive and immediate thriller. With interviews, news footage, and constant shots from the viewpoint of the paparazzi, it brings home to the viewer what it's like to be constantly in the spotlight, and hounded so much that one never has a private life. Whether you are a royalist, a royal hater or a republican, there is always something new to be gleaned from a smartly assembled doco of this nature. If only as a chronicle of how a legend is made, and a further insight into that monolith that is the royal family, there's plenty to be entertained by. 
3.5 - well recommended

The Conference
Dir: Matti Geschonnek
Length: 108  mins
© Pivot Pictures - chilling view of a seminal
and evil moment in history
Some people say the second world war is ancient history and it's time to move on. Some say the world has learned its lesson and such horrific events could never happen again. Yet recent history shows anti-Semitism is on the rise again, while deeds of horrific brutality are regularly in our news headlines, with wars and detention camps chillingly reminiscent of the Nazi era. This film is all the more horrific because of its matter-of-fact, almost calm demeanour, as we, the audience, are privy to the machinations around a conference table in Wannsee, Germany, 1942. There, officers and functionaries of the Nazi machine, nutted out what came to be known as The Final Solution, the plans for the systematic destruction of all of Europe's Jewish population. While it's hard to recommend folks revisit such horrors, the film is brilliantly executed, superbly acted, and is a vital reminder of just how easily human beings can descend into the role of cold-hearted bureaucratic beasts, when it serves their ambitions and hatreds.
4 - highly recommended 

Finding Graceland (1998)
Dir: David Winkler
Length: 106 mins
Streaming on SBS On Demand
© - a heartbreakingly beautiful film
A drifter claiming to be Elvis  (Harvey Keitel) bums a ride towards Memphis with Byron Gruman (Johnathon Schaech). Byron's badly damaged Cadillac is a result of an accident that killed his wife. Byron doubts Elvis's claims, but as the journey progresses he is in awe of the effect the man has on everyone he meets. In Vegas they meet a Marilyn Monroe impersonator, 
Ashley (Bridget Fonda), who helps lift Byron's mood. I'm totally at odds with the Tomato-meter on this one - most dislike it, but I love it. Keitel gives an inspired performance, and while the film's title is on one level about Elvis's Graceland (in fact it's the only movie ever to be allowed to shoot at the property), it is, in a broader sense about the concept of grace, friendship, compassion and turning lives around. Entertaining and deeply moving.
4 - highly recommended

more . . . MIFF
Melbourne International Film Festival 
Until 21 August in cinemas
11-28 August, a selection of films streaming online
Venues:  ACMI, Astor, Capitol, Nova, Forum, Hoyts Melbourne Central, IMAX, Kino, Lido, Pentridge, Sun
For everything you need to know visit: www.miff.com.au

Third week of my reviews from MIFF. These three are real winners and come wholeheartedly recomended. Remember, as of today, there are many films from the festival online. So if you're still antsy about sitting up close and personal in the cinema, here's your chance to get into MIFF from the safety of your living room! 

© - mysterious and beautiful in every way 
Il Buco (The Hole):
Spelunkers love going into caves. In 1961 a group of them headed into a near-vertical cave called the Bifurto Abyss, 687 ft deep, in Calabria in southern Italy. Film-maker Michelangelo Frammartino restages this remarkable descent. But while the daring explorers are descending, we also experience life above ground, where an old, grizzled shepherd tends his flock, and life goes on as it has for centuries. The film is virtually wordless (but not soundless), and something about it is ineffably mysterious, poetic, and almost spiritual, as we get a sense of timelessness within the cave and in the lifestyles of those above. The cinematography is jaw-dropping, both for the beauty of the landscape, and for the capturing of light, dark, and shadow within the cave. This is not a film to explain, rather, for the patient observer, it is a meditation upon life, death and the passing of time - something exquisite, stunning and to relish. 
(No streaming - catch it on 20th August)

© - recognise him without the moustache,
cane and tramp's clothes?
The Real Charlie Chaplin:
Fans of "the little tramp' had better not miss this wonderful doco looking at the life of Charles Chaplin, one of the world's most loved and enduring comedians. No stone in the man's life is left unturned, from his early days with a performing vaudeville troupe, through his many films loved the world over, along with his directorial career.  The man the world saw on screen was quite different in his personal life, and the many marriages and scandals are not left out, along with plenty of reminiscences from children, wives and those who even remember him as a child. All is peppered with terrific clips from his films, and makes for revelatory and entertaining viewing.
(Catch it 14th August only - no streaming)

© - never was a talk-fest so compassionate and
thought-provoking
Mass: 
In Australia it's hard to imagine living in the USA, where the statistics of mass shootings just seem to be going gang-busters. Can you imagine further how it would be to have your child killed, and then meet up with the parents of the shooter, in an effort to understand and maybe find some resolution and closure?  That's the premise of this superbly acted film, set in one room, with four grieving characters baring their souls. The stand out for me is probably Ann Dowd (Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid's Tale), but all four leads are gripping. The scripting is intelligent, thought-provoking and 
gut-wrenching. The fact that the setting for the meeting is a room in an Episcopalian church, reminds us of  the underlying religious theme of forgiveness and redemption.
(Streaming from the 11th August on MIFF Play)      

Friday, 5 August 2022

August 4th

Juniper
Kajillionaire (Streaming on Netflix)
More MIFF : Clara Solo; When Pomegranates Howl


MIFF is now officially here, so movie aficionados are in their element. Last week I reviewed four MIFF premiere films, and another two recommendations are here this week. Plus a couple of other recommendable films - one in cinema, and one for those who want to stay at home and stream. Enjoy!

Juniper
Dir: Matthew J Saville
Length: 94 mins
© Transmission - Charlotte Rampling is 
always great to see on screen
Teenager Sam (George Ferrier) is grieving the death of his mother a few months earlier and is now 
giving trouble at his boarding school. His father Robert (Martin Csokas) brings his mother Ruth (Charlotte Rampling) out from England to New Zealand so she can meet her grandson and recover from a broken leg. A resentful Sam is tasked with looking after the gran he has never met. Ruth is cantankerous, demanding, and drinks gin like a fish. Initially the pair clash and seem to loathe each other, but . . . Well, it's fairly predictable how Sam and Ruth's relationship will go, but plenty of things happen that are not predictable in this fun, and ultimately quite moving story of family, bonding and loss. Veteran actor Rampling is of course the big drawcard in this film. She is always a screen presence to delight, infuriate and admire, and she does just that here. The tension, aggro and ultimately affection created by her and Ferrier's Sam make for a warm and uplifting film.
3.5 - well recommended 

Kajillionaire
Dir: Miranda July
Length: 104 mins
Streaming on Netflix
© Netflix - the main four actors in this
quirky film take it to another level
Robert (Richard Jenkins) and Theresa (Debra Winger) are scammers, who have brought up their 26-year-old daughter Old Dolio (Rachel 
Evan Wood) to be just like them. The trio hustle and steal at every opportunity, and live rough beneath a carwash. When outsider Melanie (Gina Rodriguez) enters their lives, the trio's  carefully rehearsed routines are set for a shake-up. Despite the film being a very quirky comedy on one level, there is a lot of pathos and poignancy on another. Wood plays Old Dolio (what a crazy name), almost deadpan, but gradually the character's vulnerable underbelly is revealed, with a level of neediness, neglect, and ultimately child abuse that we don't initially see. Winger and Jenkins have a fabulous rapport as the reprehensible parents, while the sizzle between spunky Melanie and stand-offish Old Dolio is just waiting to break loose. If you're in the mood for something very offbeat, this could be for you. 
3.5 - well recommended

MIFF
Melbourne International Film Festival 
Until 21 August in cinemas
11-28 August, a selection of films streaming online
Venues:  ACMI, Astor, Capitol, Nova, Forum, Hoyts Melbourne Central, IMAX, Kino, Lido, Pentridge, Sun
For everything you need to know visit: www.miff.com.au

After my advance reviews last week MIFF is with us in cinema, and online as of next week. Here's a couple more worthy films to put into the mix for your consideration.

Clara Solo:
Costa Rica's official Oscar submission, Clara Solo is the story of a reclusive 40-year-old woman, with a damaged spine and over-protected by her religious mother. Clara is known for her gift for healing, based upon her supposed ability to commune with the Virgin Mary. The only time Clara is really herself is when she is with the white horse Yuca, with whom she has a deep bond. When worker Santiago comes to their farm, and is keen on Clara's young niece, a sensual awakening happens within Clara who becomes aware of her own needs. The film has won countless awards  in many fields and varied festivals.  It has an earthiness, a strong connection to the natural world, wonderful acting and cinematography, along with a disturbing thematic thread of how ignorance fosters oppression. This is a powerful film from a world we know little of.  
When Pomegranates Howl: 
 An Aussie, Iranian, Netherlands and Afghani co-production, this is the story of confident, charming nine-year-old Hewad, a born entrepreneur who sells wares, including pomegranate juice, from a rented cart in the streets of Kabul. He meets a photo journalist from Australia who encourages his dream of wanting to become a movie star. In the tradition of many Iranian films featuring children, this one paints a picture at once uplifting and heart-breaking, as kids with so little in their lives still manage to retain a sense of youthful optimism and play. But ultimately this is Afghanistan, and tragedy can be lurking around any corner at any moment. With striking depiction of street life in  war ravaged country this is powerful and moving film-making.

Thursday, 28 July 2022

 July 28th

The Forgiven
Murder Party
Falling for Figaro
Full Time
MIFF . . . get ready for August 4th - 4 films reviewed in advance


It's a bumper week for hurstosfiveminutefilms! Four in-cinema releases are reviewed. From French farce, to fast-paced personal dramas, to aspiring opera singers, there's an amazing variety. Plus, for those wanting to plan their time at MIFF, I begin my reviews a week in advance with some mighty interesting films. 

The Forgiven
Dir: John Michael McDonagh
Length: 117 mins
© Madman - top shelf acting - great plot -
excellent viewing
Wealthy Londoner David Heninger (Ralph Fiennes) and his glamorous wife Jo (Jessica Chastain) are driving through the remote Moroccan desert to attend a decadent party at the home of their friend Richard (Matt Smith). On route their car hits a local Bedouin boy. The police visit, and although David thinks the matter has been dealt with, events will prove otherwise. It's great to see Fiennes back in a carefully measured role, playing a complex character who is not totally what he initially seems.  Apart from how impressive this film looks and sounds with its exotic settings and music, it is intelligently scripted with a plot that had me totally engaged. Obvious issues of Western wealth and decadence sitting alongside third-world poverty are interwoven with exploration of  the customs and mores of the desert-dwelling locals. Smith and Aussie actor Caleb Landry Jones (star of Nitram) are excellent in the roles of the 
party-loving hosts, while their shallow behaviour and that of their debauched guests provides plenty of food for thought. Performances from the Moroccan actors are uniformly impressive. For me quite a stand-out film among my many viewings of late.
4 - highly recommended

Murder Party
Dir: Nicolas Pleskof
Length: 103 mins
© Pivot Pictures -  colorful French farce

Renowned architect Jeanne (Alice Pol) is invited to design a renovation for the mansion of Cesar Daguerre (Eddy Mitchell), a man made rich through his company that developed a collection of board games. When Cesar is found dead and reeking of arsenic, the games really begin, with a disembodied voice directing Jeanne and the household members (family and the butler, of course) to participate, find the killer or die. I am definitely not the person to recommend (or not!) this type of zany French farce. It is not my genre of film, but I recognise that other viewers love this sort of lunacy. To its credit, the film looks great, with an over-the-top color-saturated palette, but I find everything about the characters and the plot unbelievable, and, more importantly, not especially funny.
2.5 - maybe

Falling for Figaro
Dir: Ben Lewin
Length: 103 mins
© IFC Films - Joanna Lumley steals the show
in this credibility-stretching but delightful film
Brilliant and successful fund manager Millie (Danielle McDonald) is obsessed with becoming an opera singer. She leaves her job, and her partner Charlie (Shazad Latif) for a year, to travel to a remote village in the Scottish Highlands. There she hopes to take singing lessons from former operatic diva Meghan Jeffrey-Bishop (Joanna Lumley). The ultimate goal is to win the prestigious Singer of Renown competition. But she'll be up against Max (Hugh Skinner), another of Meghan's students, who's been trying to win for five years. In films of this nature you have to suspend disbelief - how could someone who has never sung hope to progress to these heights? That aside, there is so much to enjoy about this delightful film; it is funny, romantic, and at times silly (in a good way). The music is splendid (and that's coming from a non-opera fan), the countryside just gorgeous, and Joanna Lumley is an absolutely hilarious scene-stealer as the obnoxious singing coach. Although aspects of the plot are predictable, the film never falls into heavy formula; it remains fun and fresh and is a sure-fire, feel-good crown pleaser. 
3.5 - well recommended

Full Time
Dir: Eric Gravel
Length: 117 mins
© Palace - the pace and price
of a stressful existence
Julie (Laure Calamy) is a divorced Mum of two young kids. Although highly qualified in a professional field, she works as head chambermaid at a 5-star Paris hotel, but barely scrapes by, as her husband is erratic with alimony payments. When a general transport strike hits Paris, everything she has juggled for so long threatens to topple down like a house of cards. Significantly, this film has won three major Venice Horizons awards: Best Actor, Best Director and Best Film. Calamy is remarkable as Julie, a woman who puts on a face for the world, while underneath is going through more stress than is reasonably bearable. The pace of the film captures the drama of Julie's day, as she gets up before dawn, takes the kids to a nanny, runs most of the way to meet unreliable transport, and then faces all manner of pressures at her job, where the clientele are beyond demanding. (Meantime she's desperately applying for a new job.) A driving, pulsating music score, combined with a fast-paced shooting style, creates a stress which is almost unbearable, and one is soon totally invested in Julie's tumultuous lifestyle, as she frantically juggles everything, rarely able to grab  moment for herself. This is top-notch film-making, that really reflects what life is like for many struggling people in this fast-paced modern world.
4.5  - wholeheartedly recommended

MIFF
Melbourne International Film Festival 
4 - 28 August
Venues:  ACMI, Astor, Capitol, Nova, Forum, Hoyts Melbourne Central, IMAX, Kino, Lido, Pentridge, Sun
For everything you need to know visit: www.miff.com.au
It's that time of year where movie lovers risk deep vein thrombosis to be totally sedentary, reveling in endless films back to back, at Melbourne's most popular film festival, MIFF. And, as always, there is a plethora of wonderful films, plus special events, to celebrate MIFF's 70th anniversary. A record 61 films from the Cannes FF will be screened. 
One of the Festival's special strands is Melbourne on Film, with 25 Melbourne-focused films showing. Friday 5 August sees the launch of that strand, along with a book featuring a collection of essays on how our wonderful city has starred in movies over the years. 
All the festival films will screen in-cinema from 4-21 August and many will stream online from 11th - 28th August. Check out (above) the wonderful range of Melbourne cinemas in which the films will screen. And of course regional areas in Victoria won't miss out as MIFF travels to the likes of Warrnambool, Echuca, Geelong, Castlemaine and more. As always, lucky me has previewed a few.
 
The United States of America: Can you name every state of the USA in alphabetical order? Director James Benning has done it for you, devoting two minutes to each state, in the from of a near static shot. And they are not the archetypical images you would expect. Each shot shows that it is nearly impossible to categorise this vast country. Impatient people will not enjoy the slow pace of the film, but after a while it becomes like a game, looking for nearly imperceptible movement in each frame, studying its elements. In several places songs and speeches are used as voice/music-overs, inviting the viewer to ponder aspects of the country's history. And finally there is  very big surprise in the end credits - I'll leave it for you to discover.  

Reflection: You'd better brace yourself for this one - the film is set in the Russian/Ukranian conflict of 2014, but is terrifyingly current, and horrifically disturbing in its depictions of the conditions in Russian detention centres. Serhiy is a surgeon who signs up to go to war, alongside Andrii, his ex-wife's new husband. When the men are captured by Russian forces the nightmare sets in. Reconciling his trauma with a return to "normal" life and his daughter, Polina, is a challenge for Serhiy. This film also moves at times at a glacial pace, enabling the viewer to absolutely immerse in the emotions and experiences of each character. It is brutal and challenging viewing, but brilliant film-making, deserving of  its Golden Lion nomination at the Venice Film Festival.

General Hercules: Here's a winner of an Aussie documentary, set in the rough-neck town of Kalgoorlie. John Katahanas, known as General Hercules, is a gold prospector who lives rough in a caravan, and decides to run for mayor. He goes up against the current mayor, on an anti-corruption platform. The hard living, hard-swearing man is a total hoot, but underneath the film's surface 
there is  lot of serious social commentary - exposing greed, corruption and political behaviour that seems unnervingly familiar. Very entertaining and enlightening viewing, with a terrific insight into an iconic Aussie town most of us are unlikely to visit.

The Tale of King Crab: Luciano lives in a bucolic village in Italy in the late 1800s. But he is a drunk, and after killing someone he finds himself banished to the ends of the earth - Tierra del Fuego in Argentina. There, taking on the persona of a dead priest, he teams up with a posse of  
gold-chasing pirates, and using a red crab to show the way to the lake where the gold supposedly lies, sets out on the quest. This strangely allegorical tale has won a truckload of various awards, and though I cannot profess to totally understand all its subtleties, it is absorbing throughout. The cinematography is absolutely worth noting; beautiful and dramatic, while the lead actor is charismatic. 






Sunday, 24 July 2022

 July 25th

Night Raiders
Official Competition
Cuba and the Cameraman (streaming on Netflix)
MIFF alert! Advance reviews coming soon!


Though this week's reviews seem light on, it's full steam ahead as I'm previewing for the imminent Melbourne International Film Festival, with the Korean FF hot on its heels! Square eyes indeed! All three films reviewed this week come well recommended. 

Night Raiders
Dir: Danis Goulet
Length: 101 mins
© Vendetta - a bleak future and oppressive
state is taken on by Cree people
Set in a near-future dystopian world, this is a story of America and Canada united, the whole continent divided by a wall, with impoverished and indigenous people on one side, and the right-wing ruling powers on the other. (Hmm, something Trump may have enjoyed!)  Children become the property of the state. Cree woman Niska (Elle Maija Tailfeathers) has successfully hidden her daughter Waseese (Brooklyn Letexier Hart) for several years but after an accident gives her up to be looked after by "the academy", where kids are brainwashed. Realising her mistake, Niska joins a group of Cree night raiders to attempt to steal Waseese and other children back. This intriguing film has a lot of indigenous political themes underpinning its story, and, recognising that issues are often similar throughout the world, director Goulet has New Zealand Maori actor Alex Tarrant included in an important role. Featuring a lot of native American Cree language, and shot in a very muted pallette to accentuate the doom and gloom, this is a thought-provoking film adding to the recent upsurge of Indigenous sci-fi.
3.5 - well recommended

Official Competition
Dir: Sylvie Oyahon
Length: 100 mins
© Palace - Cruz and her leading men bring
a lot of ego to this fun tale
Pen Cruz, like you've never seen her before, plays film director Lola Cuevas, a woman known for her unusual methods. She is co-opted by a wealthy tycoon who wants to leave a mark on the world, and gets her to direct a film from a Nobel-Prize-winning book, about sibling rivalry. Her leading men Felix (Antonio Banderas) and Ivan (Oscar Martinez) couldn't be more different in their acting approaches, but their egos are equally large. The film is witty, at times laugh out loud funny, and as a vehicle to stick it to the film industry and to arrogance, this is one worth seeing. Cruz and her leading men are terrific in their performances, and the minimalism of the sets means you can  concentrate hard on the over-the-top characters. 
3.5 - well recommended

Cuba and the Cameraman
Dir: Jon Alpert
Length: 113 mins
Streaming on Netflix
© Netflix - the Borrego brothers -
resilience personified
Imagine making a film for forty-five years! That's how long director Alpert has been taking his camera to Cuba, documenting the rise of Fidel Castro, but even more importantly, meeting the locals to assemble a vision of a fascinating nation that has been through a hell of a lot of turmoil. The most intriguing is the trio of Borrego brothers, who have worked the land for decades, and, despite grinding poverty, maintain a resilient and life-affirming attitude. Though not overtly political, the film does examine the effect of the Castro rule, and Alpert seems to have even befriended the leader over the years. But it's the view of the locals, and the very long-term real-life view of this country that makes for such fascinating and insightful viewing.  
3.5 - well recommended


Thursday, 14 July 2022

July 15th

Scandinavian Film Festival
Firestarter: The Story of Bangarra (streaming on ABC iView and Foxtel)
Spiderhead (streaming on Netflix)


So, saw Elvis a second time - this time 6/5 from me. Miss it at your peril! This week a wonderful wintry film festival comes to us from Scandinavia. Plus streaming platforms deliver yet again with a stunning doco on the Bangarra Dance Company, and a generally entertaining semi sci-fi thriller starring hunky Hemsworth. 

Scandinavian Film Festival
12 July - 10 August
Palace cinemas and Cinema Nova
For other states, programming, ticketing visit: www.scandinavianfilmfestival.com

Again this year the festival brightens your winter by bringing you the best of Nordic cinema from Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland. A special feature of this year's festival will be a tribute to Scandi screen sirens, with such iconic films as Casablanca featuring Ingrid Bergman, Wicker Man with Britt Ekland and Queen Christina with Greta Garbo. As always, I have a few to recommend to you.

Nordic By Nature: Can you imagine a Michelin-starred restaurant in such a remote and idyllic setting? Well, here it is: KOKS, tucked away in the Faroe Islands. This delightful Danish doco brings us into the inner sanctum of head chef Poul Andrias Ziska and those working at this fine dining establishment. The difference is that all the produce is sourced from the immediate surrounds - the bounty of the sea and of rugged mountains in this remote location. Squeamish folk and vegetarians be warned: there is plenty of gutting of sheep, goats, fish and even whales. Somehow the workers are all "at one" with their surrounds and nature, and there is something very refreshing and unusual about this foodie film (not to mention mouth-watering, for adventurous diners). 
Quake

: In this bleak Icelandic psychological mystery, Saga is a separated mum bringing up her little boy. She suffers a severe epileptic fit and partially loses her memory. As she gradually reacquaints herself with those around her trying to help, she is frantic with fear that her child will be taken away from her. Gradually, with the help of a photo album from her childhood, she unearths some deep-seated memories that explain her fears. This is classic psychological drama, with fine acting, and compassionate, totally believable characters.  Anita Briem gives an intense and fine performance as the distraught mother.
A Matter of Trust
: This intriguing Danish drama deals with five different tales, and though interwoven chronologically, they are not connected, but they all have something to do with trust, or lack of it. A doctor accompanies a repatriation flight of distressed refugees back to Afghanistan; a married man meets a virtual stranger for a weekend of sex;  a teen in school is upset after a photo he sends gets into the wrong hands, and then he turns to his teacher for solace; a pregnant young wife and her husband attend a funeral where he is obviously not welcome, but we don't know why; a mother and her little daughter, sporting a black eye, are on some crazy beach expedition, where things are not what they seem. Of particular note is much awarded Danish actor Trine Dyrhokm (pictured), in a powerful performance as the doctor. Despite the vignettes being short, each is absolutely engrossing.  

Firestarter - the Story of Bangarra
Dir: Wayne Baliar and Nel Michin
Length: 95 mins
Streaming on ABC iView and Foxtel
© Icon - Bangarra Dance Company told in
the words of those who created it
If you missed this at the cinema last year, here's your chance to catch up with 
this inspiring, informative and beautiful documentary. Winning the inaugural Change Award at the Adelaide Film Festival,  it traces the history of one of Australia's foremost dance companies. Thirty years ago the Paige brothers, Stephen, Russell and David made a big step towards Reconciliation by setting up a dance company that brings indigenous stories to life. The film is not only about the history of that company, but also about the ever-fraught situation for Aboriginal people in a white Australia. Told through archival footage, and the words of the only surviving brother, artistic director Stephen, this is a doco to delight, disturb, and make everyone think more deeply about our relationship with our country's First Nations people. The dance itself is thrilling, athletic and exquisite to watch, the issues as always challenging.
4 - highly recommended

Spiderhead
Dir: Joseph Kosinski
Length: 106 mins
Streaming on Netflix
© Netflix - fun and pharmaceuticals
in a prison setting
Dr Steve Abnesti (Chris Hemsworth) is in charge of some heavy-duty drug experiments, in a prison where the inmates are granted certain privileges in exchange for being part of a pharmaceutical  research project. Inmate Jeff (Miles Teller) starts to become suspicious about the true nature of the project and Abnesti's involvement in it. Yes, most critics have panned it, and it's certainly no Shutter Island, but there is something rather intriguing about the premise of this film, not to mention seeing hunky Hemsworth playing quite a different role from his muscle-bound superheroes. It's actually a great plotline, with the prisoners all having an Existenz-style portal wired into their backs, and through this the devious doctor injects all manner of drugs to gauge the reaction: fear, sexual arousal, obedience etc. The film certainly lets itself down with a very formulaic ending, but I've got to say, when I was in the mood for some light entertainment, with just a jot of thought-provocation, this one fit the bill nicely.
3 - recommended