Sunday, February 2, 2014

Film Review Roundup 2nd Feb 2014

Terrific films reviewed this week and a particularly great film for Perth film lovers to catch at the Lotterywest film festival.  This is the awards season so two of these films, The Dallas Buyers Club and 12 Years A Slave are nominated everywhere.  There’s also poor little Grudge Match which you would do well to sidestep. It packs no punch I am afraid.

(My movie Pick of the week)
The Dallas Buyers Club ★★★★ ½   
Opens in Australia: 13th February 2014
USA: 22nd November 2013    UK: 2nd Feburary 2014 
Other Countries: Release Information

Who will win the Academy award for best actor this year? Matthew McConaughey. That’s who. I thought Leo was a shoe in for the award in The Wolf of Wall Street, or Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave but now that I have seen this, I know they won’t win.  Not only did McConaughey shed 40lbs for this role and is unrecognizable, he turns in an incredible performance.
Woodroof is not a sympathetic character. He’s a bigot, a womanizer, a drug addict and looks like he needs a good bath, but as McConaughey said in an interview you can empathize with his character even though you don’t like him. But that’s only because McConaughey plays him so well that you feel that way. Jared Leto who also lost a crazy amount of weight to play the transsexual sidekick to Woodroof is also tearing up the awards.  He should win best supporting actor, too
Go see this film and be appalled yet again at the ridiculous bureaucracy of government departments as they allow people to die rather than find ways to save them purely because they love their red tape.
This is a great film that took a long time to come to the screen.  Go see it for an incredible story and to see actors at the top of their game.

Matthew McConaughey stars in DALLAS BUYERS CLUB as real-life Texas cowboy Ron Woodroof, whose free-wheeling life was overturned in 1985 when he was diagnosed as HIV-positive and given 30 days to live. These were the early days of the AIDS epidemic, and the U.S. was divided over how to combat the virus. Ron, now shunned and ostracized by many of his old friends, and bereft of government-approved effective medicines, decided to take matters in his own hands, tracking down alternative treatments from all over the world by means both legal and illegal. Bypassing the establishment, the entrepreneurial Woodroof joined forces with an unlikely band of renegades and outcasts - who he once would have shunned - and established a hugely successful "buyers' club." Their shared struggle for dignity and acceptance is a uniquely American story of the transformative power of resilience. (c) Focus Features

All is Lost ★★★★ ½   
Somerville 3-8th Feb, 8pm   Joondalup Pines 11-16th Feb, 8pm

Opens in Australia wide:      6th March, 2014 
Other Countries:                   Release Information
Perth, Australia:                  See at Luna Cinemas

This is an impressive solo performance from Robert Redford. The physicality of his performance, of a lone man versing the ocean and the elements, belies his 76 years.  Also impressive is that this is only the second film for director and screenwriter, J.C. Chandor. Add this film to his Oscar nominated, “Margin Call,” and he becomes a filmmaker to watch.
It’s an absorbing, hugely smart story that will have you thinking “what next?” for this poor guy lost at sea.  The tension and dread are palpable. It may be a simple concept that we have seen before, but with the skills of Redford and Chandor it is elevated to a thrilling adventure classic.
And if you are a lucky Perth resident, do get yourself along to the Lotterywest Films. It will be there for the next two weeks. This is one you should not miss.

Deep into a solo voyage in the Indian Ocean, an unnamed man (Redford) wakes to find his 39-foot yacht taking on water after a collision with a shipping container left floating on the high seas. With his navigation equipment and radio disabled, the man sails unknowingly into the path of a violent storm. Despite his success in patching the breached hull, his mariner's intuition and a strength that belies his age, the man barely survives the tempest. Using only a sextant and nautical maps to chart his progress, he is forced to rely on ocean currents to carry him into a shipping lane in hopes of hailing a passing vessel. But with the sun unrelenting, sharks circling and his meager supplies dwindling, the ever-resourceful sailor soon finds himself staring his mortality in the face.

Grudge Match ★★
Opens in Australia: 30th January 2014
USA: 25th December 2013    UK: 24th January 2014 
Other Countries: Release Information

No, no, no. That’s what Stallone should have said when De Niro approached him to do this. Then he should have punched him in the nose and been done with it.  Terrible idea when you don’t have a good script and you cast Kim Basinger in a key role. Was she always such a terrible actress? These iconic characters that we know these actors for, from the Rocky series and Raging Bull are nowhere to be seen in this film. But I bet the cynical producers thought film lovers would come along and pay their money to rekindle the nostalgia. There are better films at the moment to spend your money and time on.  However if you do want a limp, unfunny comedy with old actors in it and bad dialogue, please be my guest.

Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone star as old boxing rivals who come out of retirement for one final match. On their first encounter in decades, their long-festering feud erupts into an unintentionally hilarious melee that instantly goes viral. The sudden social media frenzy transforms their local grudge match into a must-see HBO event. Now, if they can just survive the training, they may actually live to fight again. -- (C) Warner Bros.

12 Years a Slave ★★★★★
Opens in Australia wide:      30th January, 2014 
Other Countries:                   Release Information
Perth, Australia:         See at Luna Cinemas

As predicted this film is everywhere at the Academy awards. I will be surprised if it doesn’t win. It’s the type of film the Academy likes.
Having seen it twice now I believe it is the most authentic film I’ve ever seen on slavery in the U.S. south, and that may be because it 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 artlike 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, alongside a multitude of amazing performances from the other actors. Nice little appearance by Brad Pitt and Paul Giamatti, too.
It’s a fascinating, ugly, amazing, shouldn’t-be-missed piece of cinema.

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.

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