Monday, January 28, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty ★★★★★


Australia: 31st January 2013; USA 11thJanuary UK 25th January
Other Countries: Release Information

Zero Dark Thirty is the story behind ‘that’ news photo.  You know the one with Obama, his advisors, Vice President Biden and Hillary Clinton, sitting in a room staring at live feed of the Osama bin Laden capture mission.  Hillary’s hand covers her mouth in what looks like shock. 
           Their looks haunted me—what were they seeing?  Thanks to Oscar®-winning creative duo Director Kathryn Bigelow and producer and screenwriter Mark Boal we now know.  They were watching the culmination of a hell of a pursuit and capture mission spanning almost ten years; a mission that was mostly only successful thanks to a small team of CIA operatives.
The quest to tell the story of Zero Dark Thirty would eventually lead Bigelow and Boal into their own labyrinthine encounter with secretiveness and intense production challenges during their six years of sourcing and reporting the story for accuracy.
“This thing is pretty handmade,” says Boal, “and it’s gone through two iterations. It began six years ago as a movie about the failure to capture bin Laden in Tora Bora. I spent a few years on that, researching and writing, and we were in pre-production of that film by 2011, with scouts in Romania. Then, more or less out of the blue, bin Laden was killed, and that film became ancient history. So I had to start again.”
Along with the audience, the central character of the story, Maya (Jessica Chastain), is parachuted into the hunt for bin Laden with the unsettling experience of an “enhanced interrogation” session of an Al Qaeda detainee. Maya mirrors the audience’s mixed emotions on these interrogations. They are tough to watch. 
When it came to shooting these sequences, Bigelow took a leap far outside her comfort zone. “As a human being I wanted to cover my eyes, but as a filmmaker, I felt a responsibility to document and bear witness,” she says. “I felt I had to overcome my discomfort for the sake of telling the story.”
Maya begins to believe that one man, Abu Ahmed, a shadowy figure mentioned by many of the interrogated captives, is the key to bin Ladin’s location.  However, after so many false leads over the years, Maya is the only person who still firmly believes in her theory. 
The story follows a small group of agents through the years and peeks behind the terrorist news headlines as al-Qaeda strikes at the US and even the team attempting to track him. It is a dangerous and dirty game.  The last quarter of the film is a unique visceral experience; taut and horrific in its authenticity, as the SEAL team breaches the bin Laden compound accomplishing the historic conclusion.
The film has garnered great controversy and criticism over its torture scenes but Boal responds. “Putting it mildly, this is an extremely controversial subject.  I wanted to try to capture the complexity of the situation, morally and psychologically. It’s not an aesthetic goal of the film to settle scores, or end the debate about torture’s efficacy. But it was part of the story and we needed to include it.  The goal was to portray the events vividly and to make them real for the audience.”
“On the other hand,” he says, “towards the end of the film, we see that, ultimately, bin Laden’s compound was found not through any of these techniques, but through a combination of bribery, traditional spy work and electronic surveillance.
In case you’re wondering, Zero Dark Thirty is military jargon for the dark of night, as well as the moment—12:30 a.m.—when the Navy SEALs first stepped foot on the Osama compound.  It's a moment captured in 'that' photo that will leave history to dictate the true ramifications.  And it sure makes a remarkable movie.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Impossible ★★★½


Australia: 24th January 2013; USA 4th January UK 1st January 2013
Other Countries: Release Dates

Hug your loved ones. That’s what you think whilst watching THE IMPOSSIBLE. The intimacy of film allows us to enter a true-life experience we normally can only watch on the news; though it isn’t hard to imagine the terror of those poor souls who found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time in the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami.  It left staggering figures in its wake, 1.69 million displaced and 230,000 estimated dead.
So with great trepidation we came to view THE IMPOSSIBLE. You watch knowing what is to come, as we've seen it replayed countless times on our televisions. We’ve even seen Oprah interview survivors. This news story as implausible as you will think it is, as it unfolds in THE IMPOSSIBLE, is very true. Even the filmmakers don’t think you will believe it, so they repeat, ‘This is a true story’ twice at the beginning.
It is the story of an English family’s experience (the real family was Spanish) in the 2004 Tsunami whilst holidaying in Phuket. The family of five, Maria (Naomi Watts), Henry (Ewan McGregor) and children, Lucas (Tom Holland), Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and Simon Oaklee Pendergast), are staying at a luxury resort and relaxing by the pool when the Tsunami hits.
Lucas and his Mother surface and, within half an hour, find each other amidst the turbulent flow of the surge but they have been separated from Henry and the other children. They believe them dead. Maria has been badly injured and the story follows her and Lucas as they make their way through the disaster's aftermath and end up at a local hospital. The film switches to Henry’s relentless search for his wife and son. Along the way, we experience close up the devastation of the tragedy (although much has been made of the fact that the film is peculiarly absent of Thai victims).
Whilst the movie has a few plotting issues and occasionally becomes a little too preoccupied with assuring us how deserving this family was of salvation, it is still a film that does a good job of reminding us of the randomness of tragedy and good fortune; and, of course, how often you must hug your loved ones.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Weekly Review Round Up 20th Jan 2013


What should you spend your precious dollars on when visiting the cinema? What needs popcorn to enjoy?  And what needs waiting until DVD?
If you have seen any of these or want to see them and have a comment please feel free to share. We love hearing from our readers.

(My movie Pick of the week)
Django Unchained ★★½

Opens in Australia: 24th January 2013
Other Countries: Release Information

It’s on the Oscar Best Film list and I agree it deserves to be there.  However, Jamie Foxx should also be there for Best Actor.  He is superb.  Proof the Academy has gone bonkers this year. If you love Tarantino, then this one will not disappoint. It has all the wry humour and the bodies and the blood. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I am seeing it again this week and skipping another film I haven't seen.  Heard on the grapevine most other reviewers are doing the same.  Read my full review here.

Full Django Unchained Review: 'There Will Be Blood'

Set in the South two years before the Civil War, DJANGO UNCHAINED stars Academy Award®-winner Jamie Foxx as Django, a slave whose brutal history with his former owners lands him face-to-face with German-born bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Academy Award®-winner Christoph Waltz).  Schultz is on the trail of the murderous Brittle brothers, and only Django can lead him to his bounty.  The unorthodox Schultz acquires Django with a promise to free him upon the capture of the Brittles – dead or alive. 
Success leads Schultz to free Django, though the two men choose not to go their separate ways.  Instead, Schultz seeks out the South’s most wanted criminals with Django by his side.  Honing vital hunting skills, Django remains focused on one goal: finding and rescuing Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), the wife he lost to the slave trade long ago.    
Django and Schultz’s search ultimately leads them to Calvin Candie (Academy Award®-nominee Leonardo DiCaprio), the proprietor of “Candyland,” an infamous plantation.  Exploring the compound under false pretenses, Django and Schultz arouse the suspicion of Stephen (Academy Award®-nominee Samuel L. Jackson), Candie’s trusted house slave.  Their moves are marked, and a treacherous organization closes in on them.  If Django and Schultz are to escape with Broomhilda, they must choose between independence and solidarity, between sacrifice and survival.

This is 40 ★★★½

Opens in Australia: 17th January 2013
Other Countries: Release Information

Absolutely laugh out loud hilarious in parts.  If you have children between eight and eighteen you will really get this. I kept whispering to the hubby, ‘It’s us’.  Judd Apatow does have a habit of over-staying his welcome though. And this would have benefited from a twenty-minute shortening.  However, it’s the best of these relationship movies I’ve seen in a while.  And MAKE SURE YOU STAY whilst the credits roll. There is an outtake with Melissa McCarthy that had tears rolling down my cheeks it was so funny. In fact, I’m going to see it again just for THAT scene. 

Writer/director/producer Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Funny People) brings audiences This Is 40, an original comedy that expands upon the story of Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) from the blockbuster hit Knocked Up as we see first-hand how they are dealing with their current state of life. -- (C) Universal

Safety Not Guaranteed ★★★½

Somerville 14–20 January, 8pm Joondalup Pines22–27 January, 8pm

First let me tell you that if you are in Perth, Western Australia you need to attend one of the  Lotterywest Festival films at Somerville or Joondalup Pines. It is simply stunning sitting there amongst the pine trees. 
Safety Not Guaranteed’ is one of those quirky indie love stories.  It’s sweet and quite funny.  Surprisingly, my husband enjoyed it more than me.  The geek in me was hoping for more sci-fi, which there is but not as much as I was expecting.  Still it’s a lovely night out and certainly an enjoyable film.  Treat yourselves and enjoy this glorious outdoor weather.
An unusual classified ad seeking time-travelling companions piques the interest of three magazine writers, who set off to find the author. Safety Not Guaranteed is an endearing and humorous muse on regret, reconciliation and the risk of falling in love. Loaded with universal appeal, this romantic comedy sci-fi road trip celebrates misfits, lost souls and kindred spirits.

Madeline Bates sat down with Mark Duplass to discuss the film. Read her interview
here.Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, Sundance Film Festival 2012

What have you seen this week? Did you find our comments helpful or do you disagree? Share your thoughts with us.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Weekly Review Round Up 12th January 2013


What should you spend your precious dollars on when visiting the cinema? What needs popcorn to enjoy?  And what needs waiting until DVD?

If you have seen any of these or want to see them and have a comment please feel free to share. We love hearing from our readers.

Hitchcock ★★★★

(My movie Pick of the week)

Opens in Australia: 10th January, 2013
Other Countries: Release Information

My hero as a kid was Hitchcock.  He was the master of suspense and I have vivid memories of the first time I saw Psycho when quite young. Of course, I never felt safe in the shower again. Well they didn't worry about scarring impressionable young children in those days and I also grew up watching Hammer Horror films from age six or seven and I only turned out to be a horror writer. So, not so bad.
This is a fascinating peak behind the scenes during a very difficult time for our hero Director.  I love the way film educates us in such an entertaining way.  All the actors, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins and Scarlett Johannsen bring their A game.  The entire film is worth the scene where Hitchcock stands outside the first audience screening of Psycho directing the screams.  Beautiful work.  A must for Hitchcock fans.


HITCHCOCK is a love story about one of the most influential filmmakers of the last century, Alfred Hitchcock and his wife and partner Alma Reville. The film takes place during the making of Hitchcock's seminal movie Psycho.

Monsters Inc 3D ★★★★½

Opens in Australia: 17th January 2013
Other Countries: Release Information

I’ve always loved this film and who doesn't own the DVD.  So you know what you are getting.  The 3D isn't anything over-the-top wonderful but it is great to see Sully and Mike on the big screen.  It simply whets our appetite for MONSTERS UNIVERSITY arriving on our screens in June 2013.


“Monsters, Inc.,” one of Disney•Pixar’s most beloved and visually imaginative feature films ever, returns to the big screen to delight a whole new generation of audiences and fans alike, this time in stunning 3D. The now-classic
Academy Award®-winning animated comedy adventure “Monsters, Inc.” is set in Monstropolis, a thriving company town where monsters of all shapes and sizes reside. Lovable Sulley (voiced by John Goodman) and his wisecracking best friend Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) are the top scare team at Monsters, Inc., the largest scream-processing factory. The main power source in the monster world is the collected screams of human children—and at Monsters, Inc., an elite team of scarers is responsible for gathering those precious natural resources. Believed by monsters to be toxic, children are strictly forbidden from entering Monstropolis. But when a little girl named Boo (voiced by Mary Gibbs) accidentally follows Sulley back into his world, he finds his career in jeopardy and his life in utter chaos. So pals Mike and Sulley plot to rectify the mistake and return Boo to her home.

But when the trio encounters an unexpected series of complications, they become embroiled in a cover-up catapulting them into a mystery beyond their wildest dreams.

Gangster Squad ★★★

Opens in Australia: 10th January 2013
Other Countries: Release Information

At the end of this film I turned to my hubby expecting him to have enjoyed this film as much as me.  But no, he shot about as many plot holes in the film as there were bullet holes in the huge on-screen body count.  By the time we got home I fully agreed with him. I had really been quite mesmerised by Ryan Gosling and hadn’t noticed anything else; like Emma Stone being very un-sexy as the gangster’s girlfriend; or the movie plot becoming more far-fetched with each new scene.  If you are a Ryan Gosling fan (and he is now officially my favourite actor—sorry Mr Gere) you will enjoy salivating.  If you are looking for another SCARFACE or THE UNTOUCHABLES, this film will disappoint.  Not terrible, just not great.
Los Angeles, 1949. Ruthless, Brooklyn-born mob king Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) runs the show in this town, reaping the ill-gotten gains from the drugs, the guns, the prostitutes and-if he has his way-every wire bet placed west of Chicago. And he does it all with the protection of not only his own paid goons, but also the police and the politicians who are under his control. It's enough to intimidate even the bravest, street-hardened cop...except, perhaps, for the small, secret crew of LAPD outsiders led by Sgt. John O'Mara (Josh Brolin) and Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), who come together to try to tear Cohen's world apart. -- (C) Warner Bros

Paranorman ★★★½

Opens in Australia: 10th January 2012
Other Countries: Release Information

This stop-animation film looks like a kid’s film but be warned it has very dark themes.  The lead character talks to dead people and some of them are not so nice.  However, if your kids are not too sensitive and over ten they should appreciate this spooky little horror tale.  It’s a little different with a solid story and most parents will be grateful for that.  If you've watched Ghost Whisperer then it will seem all very familiar.

ParaNorman is following Coraline, the company's second stop-motion animated feature to be made in 3D. In ParaNorman, a small town comes under siege by zombies. Who can it call?  Only misunderstood local boy Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who is able to speak with the dead. In addition to the zombies, he'll have to take on ghosts, witches and, worst, of all, grown-ups, to save his town from a centuries-old curse. But this young ghoul whisperer may find his paranormal activities pushed to their otherworldly limits. -- (C) Focus

What have you seen this week? Did you find our comments helpful or do you disagree? Share your thoughts with us.

Django Unchained ★★★★½


Australia: 24th January 2013; USA 25th December UK 18th January 2013
Other Countries: Release Dates 

 Quentin Tarantino is a director who does not come lightly to any project.  He has a history of unabashedly focusing his pin-point wit and dark, bloody humor on a subject to the point where you are reeling, albeit enjoyably.   In his last outing, eight times Academy Award®-nominated INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, he cast his view upon World War II and the bloody inhumanity required to survive.  Might I mention, you will find in any Tarantino film review the word ‘bloody’ figuring often.
Now he’s turned to the era of slavery in the US Southern states during the 1800s.  But Tarantino being Tarantino, has decided to approach this historic time of moral complexity by setting the story as a Spaghetti Western. He says, “I’ve always wanted to do a Western.  I like all kinds of Westerns, but since Spaghetti Westerns have always been my favorite, I thought that the day I do one, it would be in that Sergio Corbucci universe.” 
And whilst DJANGO UNCHAINED has all the hallmarks of Tarantino, it  feels refreshingly new.  “Quentin’s intense study of the genre led to the inspired idea of mashing up the slave narrative with the Spaghetti Western which creates a movie we have never seen before,” adds Producer Reginald Hudlin.
The name “Django” is familiar to fans of Spaghetti Westerns: Franco Nero (who makes a cameo appearance in this) first portrayed the character in 1966 in DJANGO.  Indeed, the original DJANGO was so popular that other films borrowed the name as a marketing tool.  The more imaginative titles include DJANGO, KILL; DJANGO THE AVENGER; VIVA! DJANGO, and BALLAD OF DJANGO. 
In the opening scene of DJANGO UNCHAINED we meet Django (Jamie Foxx) marching in a chain-gang of slaves on their way to new owners.  Along comes the very cool and unflappable German-born Dr. King Schultz (Christopher Waltz) requesting to purchase Django who has worked previously for the Brittle Brothers.  All does not go well (imagine a lot of blood) for the chain-gang leaders when they decline his offer and we realize the very well-mannered Schultz is a proficient killer.
Schultz, as it turns out, is a bounty hunter who reiterates often that the criminals he tracks are worth money ‘Dead or Alive’; and in each case, dead seems better.  He enlists Django to help him track the Brittle Brothers and they team up as an unlikely pair of bounty hunters.  The startled looks of townsfolk, as Django rides in on a horse with Schultz, signals the taboo of a white and black man working together.  It’s the deep prejudices of the time that make for some of the funniest lines in the film.  There is a Ku Klux Klan scene that is as good as they come. 
Django reveals that he and his beloved wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) were separated years ago due to the slave trade.  As a friendship blossoms between Schultz and Django during their bounty hunting the two track her whereabouts to Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), the proprietor of “Candyland,” an infamous plantation.  It’s a wild ride along the way and one that leaves a trail of Tarantino inspired bloody corpses riddled with bullet holes.
One of the key strengths of the film is the portrayals by the leads.  Jamie Foxx’s Django evolution from anxious, submissive slave to an arrogant, confident Mandingo trainer is convincing.  Nominated for a Golden Globe for the role, Leonardo DiCaprio took on his first truly villainous character in playing Calvin Candie.  Originally Tarantino was thinking of an older actor for the part but after DiCaprio read the script and they talked Tarantino reworked the story to create a Caligula type ''boy Emperor' character that suited the actor.  And Christopher Schwarz’s juxtapositional role as the kind-hearted mentor to Django whilst calmly executing his bounty prey for money is a pure joy.
This is a 165 minute blood fest. Tarantino even manages to throw himself in a scene (with an interesting Australian accent) for a just-for-fun appearance. And that is the thing with him; he has fun in his own unashamedly bloody way and has been doing so since his 1992 RESERVOIR DOGS. If you are Tarantino fan then you will happily follow him wherever he travels. You know the territory.  If you are not, maybe take a peek anyway.  This may be the one that changes your mind. And did I mention there is a lot of blood?
Official Movie Website
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