Friday, January 24, 2014

Weekly Review Round Up 23rd January 2014

The Wolf of Wall Street is one heck of a film and is by and far the best film to catch of the new releases.  If you are in gorgeous, but very hot Perth, do try and see 12 Years a Slave at Joondalup Pines over its last few days and there is also the very good A Hijacking.  I saw it again this week and it really is one hell of a film. It will win the Academy Award, too.  So, cinephile’s you will want to know what the fuss is about.  Her is an interesting film and Inside Llewyn Davis is not my favourite Coen Brothers film sadly, and I hate saying that I didn’t like it.
Some great films just around the corner.  More next week.

(My movie Pick of the week)
The Wolf of Wall Street ★★★★ 
Opens in Australia:                23rd January 2014
USA: 25th December 2013    UK: 17th January 2014 
Other Countries:                     Release Information

OUR THOUGHTS
When I told a friend to prepare herself for this film because it’s loaded with swearing and raunchy sex scenes, she commented that she would close her eyes in the naughty bits. If that is your plan, then you will be mostly listening to it.  From start to finish it is filled with sex, drugs and behavior that beggars belief. It’s a modern day Caligula.
And yet the “naughty bits” don’t feel as gratuitous as other films that I have seen.  It’s almost necessary to show the debauchery in order to tell the true story of wealthy stockbroker Jordan Belfort’s escapades in the eighties and nineties.
Leonardo Dicaprio and Jonah Hill are simply amazing on screen. Just watching Leonardo and Jonah go for it is worth the price of a ticket. There is one scene where they overdose on Quaaludes that is too bizarre believe but apparently is all true. Fabulous, too, are the smaller roles by directors, Jon Favreau and Rob Reiner, and all the other actors. Even Joanne Lumley is perfect.
I can’t recommend this enough. Yes, it is a little longish, but I love Martin Scorses, and he shows here why he is considered one of the great directors. Gordon Gecko who?

STUDIO BLURB
Martin Scorsese directs the story of New York stockbroker Jordan Belfort. From the American dream to corporate greed, Belfort goes from penny stocks and righteousness to IPOs and a life of corruption in the late 80s. Excess success and affluence in his early twenties as founder of the brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont warranted Belfort the title "The Wolf of Wall Street." -- (C) Paramount

A Hijacking ★★★★

LOTTERY WEST FILMS
Somerville 20-25th Feb, 8pm   Joondalup Pines 28th Jan – 2nd Feb, 8pm
Other Countries:                   Release Information

Perth, Western Australia you need to attend one of Lotterwest Festival films at Somerville or Joondalup Pines. It is simply stunning sitting there amongst the pine trees.

OUR THOUGHTS
Tobias Lindholm is the director and screenwriter of last year’s The Hunt, one of those films that will stay with you that was in my top ten last year.  Like The Hunt this film is also a gripping drama that unravels slowly. The Danes are becoming my favourite foreign filmmakers. Everything I see that originates from there is outstanding.  This is a Danish version of a Captain Phillips hijacking at sea and its just as gripping. However, this is the story told also from the perspective of the owners of the cargo ship, the corporation and its managing director.  Its dirtier and more authentic than Captain Phillips and a really enjoyable drama.
A Hijacking is showing at Somerville and Joondalup Pines for Perth people. This is a great one to see under the stars.  The rest of the world, sadly, you will have to see it on DVD or streaming.

STUDIO BLURB
An ill-fated Danish cargo ship is hijacked in the Indian Ocean by Somali pirates. Fierce demands and risk-fraught negotiations are managed from dry-land by the ship’s committed CEO. The escalating situation and the safety of the men on board hang precariously in the balance. Bristling with suspense and astute observation, this stylish, measured thriller boasts all the hallmarks of great Danish cinema.
BEST FILM Danish Bodil Film Awards 2013
DIRECTOR TO WATCH Palm Springs International Film Festival 2013 FIPRESCI PRIZE, GOLDEN ALEXANDER (BEST FILM) Thessaloniki Film Festival 2013

Her ★★★½
Opens in Australia:              16th January, 2014 
USA: 10th January, 2014      UK: 14th February 2014 
Other Countries:                   Release Information
Perth, Australia:                  See at Luna Cinemas

THOUGHTS
The idea that we can fall in love with our operating system or build a meaningful relationship with it, is one story that I can state categorically won’t ever happen to me.  My computer and I have a love-hate relationship. Well the last laptop and I had a hate-hate relationship. That one got itself ditched for my new MacBook Air over Christmas, which so far has been very compliant, and I think we are going to be very happy together. So, I don’t think I am every falling in love with Siri or my OS like our protagonist does in Her.
It was more interesting than I expected, but every now and then I’d think to myself how utterly silly it was, and I would feel myself pulled out of the story.  It’s Director Spike Jonze’s commentary on our love affair with iPads and smart phones and how it can all go terribly wrong. Definitely worth a look if the concept appeals, with a few outrageously funny scenes and a few cringe-worthy to match.

STUDIO BLURB
Spike Jonze takes the helm for this comedy about a withdrawn writer (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls in love with his computer's highly advanced operating system.

Inside Llewyn Davis ★★
Opens in Australia:              16th January, 2014 
USA: 10th January, 2014      UK: 24th January 2014 
Other Countries:                   Release Information
Perth, Australia:                  See at Luna Cinemas

THOUGHTS
Dear Coen Brothers, you know I love you. No Country for Old Men, Burn After Reading, True Grit, The Big Lebowski are all genius, and the wit sublime.  But Inside Llewyn Davis just falls short for me. Sorry boys.  There’s no story here and Llewyn Davis, the musician looking to hit the big time, well, he’s so dull. I just didn’t feel anything for him.  You are known for creating larger than life characters, but this character is so self-centered and worthless I was kind of hoping at some point you might bring in a hit-man and end his and our misery (you are very good with hit-men).  But no, it just ends with nothing, and I was left wondering what was the point.  It’s a nicely created genre film to give us a peek into the sixties New York City folk music scene, and if you had just added a story it would have hit the mark.  But, don’t worry, I will still come back for the next film because you can’t have a hit every time.

STUDIO BLURB
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS follows a week in the life of a young folk singer as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961. Guitar in tow, huddled against the unforgiving New York winter, he is struggling to make it as a musician against seemingly insurmountable obstacles-some of them of his own making. (c) CBS


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


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Weekly Review Round Up 9th January 2014

THIS WEEK'S PREVIEWS

My two films this week are both five star winners. I’ve seen Saving Mr Banks twice and I just recommend it to everyone. Don’t miss it.  And 12 Years a Slave I am about to see again during its run at the outdoor cinema Sommerville.  This one is a masterpiece.  It’s exciting to see 2014 starting of with such top films.  If you are in Australia, also don’t miss seeing Frozen or The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug or The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. There is something for everyone at the moment and all worth your dollars.

(My movie Pick of the week)
Saving Mr Banks ★★★★★
Opens in Australia: 9th January 2014
USA: 20th December 2013
UK: 29th November 2013 
Other Countries: Release Information

OUR THOUGHTS
Who doesn’t love Mary Poppins? Seriously, is it not the most delightful film ever made? It so easily crosses generations to please young and old even now. So, it may surprise you to know that the true story behind the making of this Disney classic was not so sugar and spice and that it took more than a spoonful of sugar for this movie to go down.
It seems P.L. Travers, Mary Poppins’ Australian author, was very protective of her “Mary.” In fact, she considered the Banks and Mary her family. This is the story of how Disney (Tom Hanks) after twenty years of pursuit, persuaded Mrs. Travers (Emma Thompson)—and, please only call her Mrs. Travers—to, finally, allow him to make the film. Why the film is called Saving Mr Banks will only be revealed at the end.
In telling the story, we alternate between the curmudgeonly writer of today and the imaginative, intelligent child in outback Queensland living with her troubled father and mother. It’s from the story of the past that we come to understand the complex woman who is giving poor Walt a run for his money.
I’ve seen this film twice now and I think I loved it even more the second time around. The tough-critic children enjoyed it too. It’s a perfectly made film, with beautiful performances. Emma Thompson owns the screen, and if she doesn’t get an award win for this then I am supercalifragilistic-ing someone. Now, I am off to go fly a kite.

STUDIO BLURB
When Walt Disney's daughters begged him to make a movie of their favorite book, P.L. Travers' "Mary Poppins," he made them a promise one that he didn't realize would take 20 years to keep. In his quest to obtain the rights, Walt comes up against an, uncompromising writer who has absolutely no intention of letting her beloved magical nanny get mauled by the Hollywood machine. But, as the books stop selling, and money grows short, Travers reluctantly agrees to go to Los Angeles to hear Disney's plans for the adaptation. For those two short weeks in 1961, Walt Disney pulls out all the stops. Armed with imaginative storyboards and chirpy songs from the talented Sherman brothers, Walt launches an all-out onslaught on P.L. Travers, but the prickly author doesn't budge. He soon begins to watch helplessly as Travers becomes increasingly immovable and the rights begin to move further away from his grasp. It is only when he reaches into his own childhood that Walt discovers the truth about the ghosts that haunt her, and together they set Mary Poppins free to ultimately make one of the most endearing films in cinematic history.

12 YEARS A SLAVE ★★★★★

PERTH LOTTERY WEST FILM FESTIVAL
                       http://2014.perthfestival.com.au/Whats-on-by-Genre/Film/12-Years-A-Slave
Somerville 13-19 Jan, 8pm   Joondalup Pines 21-26, 8pm

Opens in Australia: 30th January 2014 general release
Other Countries:          Release Information

OUR THOUGHTS
Expect this one to show prominently in many categories when the Oscar nominations are announced on January 16th. It’s the type of film the Academy likes.
This is the most authentic film I’ve ever seen on slavery in the U.S. south and is based on an 1800’s memoir by Solomon Northup.  Thus it makes it a very difficult film to watch at times. While I had heard the violence was graphic I actually didn’t find that the case. What is graphic and probably more horrific is the absolute belief by the land owners and those involved in the slave trade that these people were chattel. There is no reticence in displaying this on screen and that was the hard part to stomach.  Some scenes involving a mother being separated from her children are so heart-wrenching they hurt.
It’s a beautifully made film. Some visuals are art in their framing. Everything means something, even just the burning of a letter and the camera holding on the image until the last ember has burnt itself out before the screen fades to black. It’s just beautiful imagery.
Chiwetel Ejiofor as  Solomon and Michael Fassbender as the cruel slave owner Edwin Epps give everything to their roles, along with a multitude of amazing performances. Nice little appearance by Brad Pitt and Paul Giamatti.
It’s a fascinating, ugly, amazing, shouldn’t-be-missed piece of cinema. And if you are lucky enough to live in beautiful Perth, you have the added benefit of seeing it at the incredible outdoor cinemas Somerville or Joondalup Pines.

STUDIO BLURB
MORE THAN A POWERFUL ELEGY, 12 YEARS A SLAVE IS A MESMERIZING TRIUMPH OF ART AND POLEMICS.    Indiewire
12 Years A Slave is Steve McQueen’s fiercely powerful rendering of the memoirs of Solomon Northup. A free man in New York in the 1840s, Northup was tricked, kidnapped and sold into slavery in the Deep South. At the inhumane hands of plantation owners, he faces a monumental struggle for survival. Vivid and nuanced, 12 Years A Slave is one of the most widely lauded and hotly anticipated films of the year.

PEOPLE’S CHOICE AUDIENCE AWARD Toronto International Film Festival 2013

BRITISH ARTIST OF THE YEAR, STEVE MCQUEEN Britannia Awards 2013

Friday, January 3, 2014

Greats, Hates and Failed Escapades

The year of “so-so”, that was 2013. 
With only a few real standout films and the usual horrible, horrible duds, the rest were just average. If cinema takings are down, the film studios only have themselves to blame. The scripts have been the problem and you can’t help wondering why some of the cable network AMC writers, who bring us amazing gems like “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men”, can’t write for Hollywood, too. It’s also interesting to note that three of the eleven most bankable people in Hollywood (Brad Pitt, Will Smith and Johnny Depp) starred in three of my “worst” films, which happened to also bomb at the box office. So, a star does not guarantee a film’s success.
This year there was one absolute standout film. Alfonso CuarĂ³n’s “Gravity” had people talking everywhere. It needed to be seen in the cinema and on IMAX if possible. The extremely realistic space scenes required an extension of the technology of filmmaking, and it had many of us almost believing they had found a way to film in space. 
The Marvel franchise continued on strongly with “Iron Man 3” (this year’s box office highest performer) following on linearly from 2012’s top box office earner “The Avengers”. Later in the year “Thor 2: The Dark World” followed on nicely with the next chapter of the series. It’s clear from the teasers embedded in the closing credits of Thor that these Marvel films are going to continue on for years or at least until they stop making loads of money. 


This is also the first year we have experienced life without any “Twilight films”. There have been a few contenders put up but no takers so far except for “Hunger Games” but it hasn’t reached the same level of hysteria as the vampire/werewolf/human love triangle.
What is amazing is that you can always count on the tried and true talents to still deliver great entertainment. We’re talking about Woody Allen with “Blue Jasmine,” Ben Stiller with “Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and Tom Hanks in “Captain Phillips” and “Saving Mr. Banks and Leonardo Di Caprio in “The Great Gatsby”.
Here’s my 2013 greats and hates:

GREATS

“Gravity”- A wild, exhilarating ride in which you won’t breathe until the credits come up. Bravo.
“Blue Jasmine” – Cate Blanchett is divine, and Woody Allen’s wry observation of human nature is again spot on.
“12 Years a Slave” – True life drama that will tear at your heart. My pick as the big winner during the awards season.
“Captain Phillips” – A terrifying, gritty story with Tom Hanks at the top of his game.
“Saving Mr. Banks” – Emma Thompson just eats up the role of Mary Poppins’ belligerent author. What a story!
“West of Memphis” – The finest documentary this year, and its proof that fact is stranger than fiction
“The Great Gatsby” – some loved it; some hated it. It was big, bold and beautiful.
“Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa” – Funniest comedy this year with the man of the moment, Steve Coogan.
“Thor 2: The Dark World" – There’s a bare chested Thor scene. It’s in top ten just for that, and the juicy Loki scenes.
“Secret Life of Walter Mitty” – Whimsical, wonderful and the most charming film this year.
“Frozen” – And I’ve snuck a number eleven in because I just saw it again and was reminded how wonderful it is. It really is the most beautiful animation this year and classic Disney, and I love Disney.

HATES

“The Counsellor”– A boring, arrogantly indulgent film. Easily the worst thing I’ve seen this year. After watching Cameron Diaz interact with a Ferrari, I need counselling.
“Night Train to Lisbon” – A dead-end train to nowhere interesting. It’s appalling in every aspect, from script, to acting, to story. Do not get on.
“Safe Haven” – Am I allowed to call a very popular romance woeful and ridiculous? Why yes I will.
“A Good Day to Die Hard” – How on earth did they come up with this terrible, unbelievable script? Leave “Die Hard” alone if this is the best you got.
“The Host” – Cashing in on Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” success with a poorly scripted science fiction mess was not a good idea.
“The Call” – This was meant to be a drama but our audience laughed through most of the 2nd half.  The script never got passed the dial tone.
“After Earth” – Will Smith misguided vehicle for his son. “Inept” is the best word to describe this ridiculous, poorly acted, plot-hole riddled mess.
“The Lone Ranger” – Could have been good, should have been good, but in the end it was just a dumb idea. Johnny Depp can’t pull off feathers and white face paint.
“Runner Runner” – Ben Affleck what the heck? After last year’s fantastic “Argo”, you follow up with this lame drama. Still don’t understand the title.
“Diana” – Embarrassing grab for dollars from Diana fans. Naomi Watts with a bad hairdo plus speculative, limp love story = fail.