Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Monthly Roundup: April Viewing

I watched a total of 40 Films in April. Below are some very brief thoughts on all of them.

New-To-Me Films (In Order of Preference)

Badlands (Terrence Malick, 1973) - Malick's violent and fascinating road odyssey tracks a pair of alienated youths who gain criminal notoriety living off the land and notching up body count. Sheen and Spacek are excellent in this brooding film that shocks with Kit's carefree trigger finger, and yet it's impossible to look away. 

The King of Comedy (Martin Scorsese, 1982) - De Niro is absolutely phenomenal as Rupert Pupkin and it's a great film. A dangerously ambitious comic takes his obsession with a talk show host (Jerry Lewis) and gaining his big break to an extreme length.

One Week (Buster Keaton, 1920) - Just pure genius. Keaton's debut work too, I believe. 

A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven, 1984) - The horror genre is all about consciously watching your nightmares and ELM STREET brilliantly toys with perceptions of interlocking dream and reality. For me, it is Craven's masterwork so far. Relentless intensity, inventive deaths and a perceptive heroine. Would have left many audiences scared to sleep over the years.

Taxi to the Dark Side (Alex Gibney, 2007) - A very troubling investigation into the heinous US interrogation techniques during the war on terror including suspicious deaths of innocent detainees and the laws unscrupulously amended by Bush admin to allow such methods to be used. 

Sex, Lies and Videotape (Steven Soderbergh, 1989) - Soderbergh's ridiculously young debut feature is sexy and very well acted by the ensemble (including a Cannes winner in Spader, and a never-better Andie MacDowell), fueled by lies, deceit, suppressed desires and the inability to communicate sexual urges.

Whisper of the Heart (Yoshifumi Kondo, 1995) - Lovely Studio Ghibli animation about confusing adolescent crossroads; falling in love, taking responsibility, and finding inspiration and ambition to realize one's dreams. A remarkably sweet film about high school life.

Westworld (Michael Crichton, 1973) - In manufactured themed resorts tourists can fearlessly reinvent themselves, their desires at liberty to the programmed stimuli. This is a really cool futuristic thriller from writer/director Michael Crichton about human tinkering with reality, being betrayed by own creations. Paved way for films like THE TRUMAN SHOW and CABIN IN THE WOODS and evolves into a monster film of sorts after opening as a sci-fi/western hybrid.

Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2013) - Hard to gauge conflicted feelings initially; thirst for freedom, rush, debauchery and power raised to 11. Franco kills. Martinez too. Some issues but as irresponsible and disturbing as some of the behaviour is, it is not far removed from reality. Final third a tense and uncertain spiral into madness, a hallucinatory nightmare of immorality and deception.

Hard Eight (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1996) - Mysterious old-timer (Phillip Baker Hall) involves himself in the life of wayward youngsters (John C. Reilly, Gwyneth Paltrow) in need of wisdom and counsel in PTA's intriguing and unfairly assured (and ignored) debut. It's a top film, and though far less ambitious than the films he has followed it up with, it still features impressive writing and a sense of style that would be especially evident in BOOGIE NIGHTS and MAGNOLIA. Most fascinating theme: the clash of generations - composure and method versus recklessness and spontaneity when unwisely making decisions influenced by chance. The cast are superb.

Cinema Jenin: The Story of A Dream (Marcus Vetter, 2012) - Cinema Jenin is an enlightening documentary account of a tightrope evasion of political, cultural and economic obstacles to resurrect a decrepit Palestinian cinema and former Jenin West Bank cultural centre to bring the power of not just cinema, but the arts in general, to a nation who had been without the privilege for over twenty years.

Shallow Grave (Danny Boyle, 1994) - Gripping and twisty psychological unraveling/betrayal following the chance procuring of a fortune and amateur body disposal. McGregor, as has been the trend recently, is best in show, but it's an early culmination of Boyle's flair and familiar themes of greed vs. morality.

Millions (Danny Boyle, 2004) - Gentle, family-centric Boyle tackles relevant moralities and a young boy's saint-like ideals when faced with fleeting, life-changing wealth. It has an abundance of style (per usual with Boyle) but also interesting ideas on faith, goodwill, equity and economy.

Carrie (Brian De Palma, 1976) - High school cruelty and Evangelical extremism mold an outcast desiring acceptance who exerts telekinetic revenge in disturbing fashion. The film feels pretty dated until the extraordinarily directed prom scene, which is unforgettable. Spacek is magnificent. A De Palma winner, finally.

Chasing Ice (Jeff Orlowski, 2012) - A fascinating, stunning and important documentary. To challenge the climate change debate, a driven photographer named James Balog traverses the icy extremes of Alaska, Greenland and Iceland to publicize visual evidence of significant glacial calving. James' mission and dedication is admirable work, as is his belief in the co-existence of civilization and nature. They can't be divorced. It seems undeniable.

Iron Man 3 (Shane Black, 2013) - I enjoyed Iron Man 3 a lot. A fun superhero-come-political espionage thriller with compelling action, an exposed and vulnerable hero (RDJ is terrific) and some surprises. The final act, though featuring an impressive set piece, was less satisfying, but Stark's sharp dialogue and his genuine relationships with helpful civilians, give the film a big lift. Hats off to Shane Black for ensuring there is an arresting personal story amongst the visual spectacle.

Oblivion (Joseph Kosinski, 2013) - Atmospheric and cinematic. Terrific visuals, score and a consistently intriguing/surprising story that takes it's time to immerse a viewer in the world Cruise's (good!) character inhabits. Lots of sci-fi derivatives, which will likely prove to be too much to overlook for many, but personally I didn't care. Much better than most films I have seen recently. A big surprise.

----- Essential Viewing -----

Monday, April 29, 2013

New Releases (02/05/13)

I found it difficult to find multiple sources confirming this week's releases but it seems like The Hunt, Drift, 42, The Big Wedding and Promised Land will be the new additions to cinemas to separate the blockbuster releases of Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness.

The Hunt - Mads Mikkelsen (NBC's Hannibal, A ROYAL AFFAIR, CASINO ROYALE) won the Best Actor Award at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival for his penetrating portrayal of Lucas, a former school teacher who has been forced to start over having overcome a tough divorce and the loss of his job. Just as things are starting to go his way, his life is shattered when an untruthful remark throws his small community into a collective state of hysteria. As the lie spreads, Lucas is forced to fight a lonely fight for his life and dignity.

Drift - Australia, 1970s. The Kelly brothers, Andy (28) and Jimmy (22), have one great passion: riding big waves. As kids, their mother escaped from Sydney to Margaret River, a sleepy coastal town with some of the world's most challenging and dangerous waves. For the next 12 years, the boys perfected their surfing skills, always searching for the perfect ride. Free-spirited Jimmy is a gifted surfer but he starts to slip toward a life of crime to help the family out of debt. Andy makes a big decision. Quitting a stable job, he bets on Jimmy's surf inventions and his own business skills and launches a backyard surf gear business. They rethink board design, craft homemade wetsuits and sell their merchandise out of their van. Encouraged by their new friends, traveling bohemian surf photographer and filmmaker JB (Sam Worthington) and his gorgeous Hawaiian surfer companion, Lani, who stirs the two brothers' hearts, they start to seek ways to expand. A story of passion and corruption, friendship and loyalty, deadly addictions and fractured relationships, Drift tells a tale of courage and the will to survive against all odds.

42 - Hero is a word we hear often in sports, but heroism is not always about achievements on the field of play. "42" tells the story of two men-the great Jackie Robinson and legendary Brooklyn Dodgers GM Branch Rickey-whose brave stand against prejudice forever changed the world by changing the game of baseball. In 1946, Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) put himself at the forefront of history when he signed Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) to the team, breaking Major League Baseball's infamous color line. But the deal also put both Robinson and Rickey in the firing line of the public, the press and even other players. Facing unabashed racism from every side, Robinson was forced to demonstrate tremendous courage and restraint by not reacting in kind, knowing that any incident could destroy his and Rickey's hopes. Instead, Number 42 let his talent on the field do the talking-ultimately winning over fans and his teammates, silencing his critics, and paving the way for others to follow.

The Big Wedding - With an all-star cast led by Robert De Niro, Katherine Heigl, Diane Keaton, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace, with Susan Sarandon and Robin Williams, The Big Wedding is an uproarious romantic comedy about a charmingly modern family trying to survive a weekend wedding celebration that has the potential to become a full blown family fiasco. To the amusement of their adult children and friends, long divorced couple Don and Ellie Griffin (De Niro and Keaton) are once again forced to play the happy couple for the sake of their adopted son's wedding after his ultra conservative biological mother unexpectedly decides to fly halfway across the world to attend. With all of the wedding guests looking on, the Griffins are hilariously forced to confront their past, present and future - and hopefully avoid killing each other in the process.

Promised Land - Matt Damon plays Steve Butler, an ace corporate salesman who is sent along with his partner, Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand), to close a key rural town in his company's expansion plans. With the town having been hit hard by the economic decline of recent years, the two outsiders see the local citizens as likely to accept their company's offer, for drilling rights to their properties, as much-needed relief. What seems like an easy job for the duo becomes complicated by the objection of a respected schoolteacher (Hal Holbrook) with support from a grassroots campaign led by another man (John Krasinski), as well as the interest of a local woman (Rosemarie DeWitt). Promised Land explores America at the crossroads where big business and the strength of small-town community converge. 

Weekly Recommendation: Having only seen 'The Hunt' and finding it extremely emotional and thought provoking, it is easily my pick of the week. In fact, it would be one of the top films to hit cinemas this year. But, I have read some positive responses to '42' and with Gus Van Sant at the helm 'Promised Land' could also be worth a look.   

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Brief Hiatus

Hey everyone, there will only be a few posts added to the site over the next ten days as I am heading out of town for a holiday. Monthly round-up and a spotlight on the May 2 releases to come, but likely not much else. You can keep track of my adventures and my ever-existent thoughts on film at my Twitter account - @buckle22

Review: Cinema Jenin: The Story of A Dream (Marcus Vetter, 2012)

Cinema Jenin is an enlightening documentary account of a tightrope evasion of political, cultural and economic obstacles to resurrect a decrepit Palestinian cinema. The former Jenin West Bank cultural centre isn’t just a symbol of cinema, but the arts of a nation who has been without the privilege for over twenty years. Prior to the project there had been no functioning cinemas in Jenin since 1987, following First Intifada closure. A German journalist and documentarian fronts a passionate team who collectively envision its return to former glory. Navigating the divisive politically charged interests of a nation still in turmoil with it’s neighbour, Marcus’s dream is a dangerous but endearing one. This illuminating study of an important international aid project is powerful viewing, a tribute to the inspiring and healing magic of art and culture, and sought insurance that the arts are an integral part of universal societies.

Marcus Vetter was in Jenin in 2008 after filming for his documentary Heart of Jenin, the story of Ahmed Khatib, a Palestinian boy shot by Israeli soldiers whose father decides to donate his son’s organs to Israeli children as a gesture of peace, when he learned about the abandoned cinema. Driven to resurrect, restore and reopen the iconic centre of Palestinian cultural life, he enlists a program director, begins to communicate with the cinema owners, and seeks funding learning some lessons on Palestinian customs along the way.

Continue reading at Graffiti With Punctuation

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Review: Iron Man 3 (Shane Black, 2013)

Robert Downey Jr. is back in suitably charismatic form as billionaire genius and playboy Tony Stark, in the entertaining third installment in the Iron Man franchise. Director/co-writer Shane Black, responsible for awesome noir throwback Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and buddy cop classic Lethal Weapon, has taken the reins from Jon Favreau (Iron Man 1 and 2), who sticks around with an amusing cameo, crafting a film with surprising social relevance and heart. He has successfully fused comic book sensibilities, thrilling high-stakes action, guffaw-worthy humour and compelling character drama into a top class visual effects bonanza that fits nicely into the current Marvel canon.

Following the events of The Avengers in Manhattan, Tony has been struggling to sleep and suffers from anxiety attacks whenever reminded of the ordeal. He busies himself tinkering with his suits, giving individual elements their own exclusive power, which allows the suit to remotely fit together on his person from disparate pieces. While Tony has been trying to put his mind at rest, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), has been approached by Aldich Killian (Guy Pearce), a rival businessman who was involved in a fleeting but important moment from Tony’s past. He requests Stark Industries’ allegiance with his company, which is operating an Extremis Program involving the experimental treatment of crippling injury. Meanwhile, an antagonistic and sadistic terrorist known as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) has been responsible for a series of bombings on U.S soil. When Tony threatens him, he retaliates by targeting everything that Tony has come to hold dear.

Continue Reading at Graffiti With Punctuation

Friday, April 26, 2013

My 25 Favourite Albums

As many of you know I don't spend ALL of my time watching films. Whether I am at home or out and about I am usually listening to music, and make my choices based on a specific album I feel like. I respect artists not by their collection of hit singles, but their ability to put together an album. One that offers rewarding songs from beginning to end, that take a listener on an evolving journey. Albums reveal so much about an artist at the time of release; their creative influences and collaborative evidence of the band's experimentation and future direction with sound. Here is my frequently interchangeable list of 25 Favourite Albums - ones I have listened to and enjoyed consistently more than any others.

25. Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers) – Wu Tang Clan
24. Low – David Bowie
23. I See A Darkness - Bonnie "Prince" Billy
22. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots - The Flaming Lips
21. Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd
20. Ride the Lightning - Metallica
19. Ten - Pearl Jam
18. Unknown Pleasures - Joy Division
17. In the Airplane Over the Sea - Neutral Milk Hotel
16. The Lonesome Crowded West - Modest Mouse
15. Californication - Red Hot Chili Peppers
14. Abbey Road – The Beatles
13. Aenima – Tool
12. Forever Changes - Love
11. Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd
10. The Moon and Antarctica – Modest Mouse
9. Meat is Murder – The Smiths
8. Illinoise - Sufjan Stevens
7. Hot Rats - Frank Zappa
6. The Doors - The Doors
5. OK Computer - Radiohead
4. Funeral - Arcade Fire
3. Paranoid - Black Sabbath
2. Master of Puppets - Metallica
1. Remain in Light - Talking Heads

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Review: Mercy (Matthias Glasner, 2012)

Mercy, directed by German filmmaker Matthias Glasner, is a fascinating melodrama screening at the upcoming 2013 Audi Festival of German Films.

Set in the beautiful northern Norwegian town of Hammerfest, covered by periodic complete darkness and light, Mercy is an engrossing slow-burn drama fraught with moral quandary (guilt is a more relevant virtue than the eponymous one, however) and domestic melodrama. Mercy offers surprises and focuses on how people cope with isolation, both in relation to location and the individual emotional traps they face. The plot mechanics are well constructed and the unique location presents a stunning snowy canvas for this tale to unravel.

Niels (Jurgen Vogel, Hotel Lux) and Maria (Brigit Minichmayr, Das Weiss Bande) and their son Markus (Henry Stange), have recently emigrated to Norway in the hopes they can start a new life and resurrect their stagnant marriage. Niels has taken on a job as an engineer and we soon learn he has been sleeping with an attractive colleague (Ane Dahl Top, Dead Snow). After being briefly distracted by the northern lights on her way home late one night, Maria hits someone or something with her car. She stops quickly but is panicked and drives on home. A search by Niels later in the night reveals no sign of anything, but Maria still fears the worst. The next day, on the news and in the paper, there is a report that one of Markus’ schoolmates had been killed during the night, a hit-and-run.

Continue reading at Graffiti With Punctuation

Monday, April 22, 2013

Review: The Hunt (Thomas Vinterberg, 2012)

I first watched The Hunt at the Melbourne International Film Festival. Here is an extension of my diary thoughts. In cinemas May 2, distributed through Madman Films.

In Danish writer/director Thomas Vinterberg's haunting new drama, The Hunt, Mads Mikkelsen (awarded Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival for the role), stars as Lucas, a popular small town Kindergarten teacher. When Klara (Annika Wedderkopp), the daughter of his best friend Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen), tells a story detailing inappropriate sexual contact from Lucas, it quickly becomes a serious case. The adults, informed of the claims by the school's principal despite there being no proof beyond Klara's account, are blinded by rage, turn against Lucas and begin a campaign to ensure that justice is served, targeting not only his professional career and personal reputation, but also his family. Lucas is wrongfully accused, but when more stories of abuse surface - a result of insular paranoia - the mounting lies spiral out of control to the point where the life of this innocent man is facing ruin. 

The Hunt is tremendously affecting and frequently angered me. This is courtesy of the decision-making by some of the adult characters, and a line of questioning initially administered to Klara was especially deplorable. I left the cinema devastated. Vinterberg, best known for his Dogma 95 origin film, Festen [The Celebration] (1998), has crafted an atmospheric and tense drama of an insular community unnervingly embroiled in hysteria and turmoil as a result of a child's lie. A parent's desire to protect their children and bring justice to a wrongdoer in a situation like this is only natural, but the series of events in this story hit me hard. Vinterberg makes wonderful use of Mikkelsen's emotive face, drawing a mesmerising performance from one of Europe's most talented actors, in what is a glamorously photographed work.  

There are many outstanding sequences - including a stunning finale - which punctuate why The Hunt is a must see, and many questionable decisions made by the school and the townsfolk, that will leave a viewer audibly frustrated. Lucas, so close to Klara's father he's like an extended member of the family, walks Klara to school alone on one occasion and on another assists a child in the lavatory. While these seem like kind and harmless gestures, without alternative adult supervision Lucas is susceptible to a situation like the one he is accused of. He has no witnesses, so it becomes the child's word against his.  

While some of the actions might seem to be of an extreme nature, and the film deemed manipulative, I felt it was exceptionally well-constructed. Sadly, there are many cases of child sexual abuse in the world today. It is a horrific crime. This fascinating character study captures the emotions on both sides and asks us not to desire justice being served but to hope that in this case it isn't wrongfully done so.

My Rating: ★★★★1/2

New Releases (25/04/13)

In cinemas this week: Iron Man 3 (Wednesday 24 release), Song For Marion, Haute Cuisine and Antiviral (not Sydney).

Iron Man 3 - Pits brash-but-brilliant industrialist Tony Stark/Iron Man against an enemy whose reach knows no bounds. When Stark finds his personal world destroyed at his enemy's hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find those responsible. This journey, at every turn, will test his mettle. With his back against the wall, Stark is left to survive by his own devices, relying on his ingenuity and instincts to protect those closest to him. As he fights his way back, Stark discovers the answer to the question that has secretly haunted him: does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?

Song For Marion - A heart-warming story of a loving marriage between grumpy pensioner Arthur (Terence Stamp) and the ever-cheerful Marion (Vanessa Redgrave). Cantankerous but doting husband Arthur does not share his wife Marion's passion for performing. While she is happy to sing her heart out with the unconventional local choir, Arthur would prefer to hide himself away and complain about how embarrassing it all is. But when heartbreak strikes, Arthur is forced to re-think his outlook on life. With the steady perseverance of choir director Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton), Arthur begins to find a way to come out of his shell and in the process forms a touching relationship with Elizabeth as well as a desire to build bridges with his estranged son James (Christopher Eccleston). 

Haute Cuisine - Hortense Laborie (Catherine Frot), a renowned chef from Perigord, is astonished when the President of the Republic (Jean d'Ormesson) appoints her his personal cook, responsible for creating all his meals at the Elysée Palace. Despite jealous resentment from the other kitchen staff, Hortense quickly establishes herself, thanks to her indomitable spirit. The authenticity of her cooking soon seduces the President, but the corridors of power are littered with traps.

Antiviral - Syd March is an employee at a clinic that sells injections of live viruses harvested from sick celebrities to obsessed fans. Syd also supplies illegal samples of these viruses to piracy groups, smuggling them from the clinic in his own body. When he becomes infected with the disease that kills super sensation Hannah Geist, Syd becomes a target for collectors and rabid fans. He must unravel the mystery surrounding her death before he suffers the same fate. Directed by David Cronenberg's son, Brandon and screened in the Un Certain Regard at last year's Cannes Film Fest.

Weekly Recommendation: I imagine Iron Man 3 will be the pick of the bunch, and early reports indicate it is a significant improvement over Iron Man 2. Song for Marion, with a return to the screen for the great Terrence Stamp, looks sweet, and though I enjoyed Haute Cuisine, it is not imperative cinema viewing. Better suited for home environment.  

Review: Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2013)

Childhood friends and college students Faith (Selena Gomez), Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) are beset on escaping their dull college lives with a trip to Florida for Spring Break. To obtain the necessary funds they resort to robbing a fast-food restaurant with hammers and squirt guns, and are soon on their way to a spend a rebellious week behaving recklessly. Following an exceedingly wild party, the girls find themselves arrested, before being bailed out by Alien (James Franco) a gangster-rapper with ties to narcotics and arms dealing. While Faith is uncomfortable with Alien’s lifestyle and associates, the other three girls wholeheartedly embrace his promise to treat them to all the excitement and life experience they sought from a Florida retreat.

The brave performances from former Disney stars Gomez (Monte Carlo) and Hudgens (High School Musical), and ABC star Benson (Pretty Little Liars) are one of the film’s chief calling cards. Their wild behaviour is unnerving and a testament to their evident range of talents. The unknown (to me) was Korine, who not-coincidentally happens to be the wife of the writer/director Harmony Korine (Gummo, Trash Humpers). Korine’s credits have been met with continued controversy and dealt with themes of social dysfunction through absurdist surrealism and cinema-verite aesthetics, but have become underground cult classics.

Continue reading at Graffiti With Punctuation

Friday, April 19, 2013

Review: Haute Cuisine (Christian Vincent, 2013)

Haute Cuisine, which in French means ‘high cooking’, refers to the cuisine characterized by meticulous preparation and careful presentation of food at high-level establishments like gourmet restaurants and luxury hotels. Haute Cuisine is set in the kitchens of the Elysee Palace, where a modest farmer and cook from Perigord, Hortense Laborie (Catherine Frot), is summoned to take on the envious role as private chef for President of the Republic, Francois Mitterand (Jean d’Ormesson). Based on the true story of Daniele Mazet-Delpeuch, Haute Cuisine is an enjoyable bio-drama co-written (with Etienne Comar, producer of Of Gods and Men) and directed by Christian Vincent and sure to please food connoisseurs and appreciators of embraced passion and unwavering spirit.

Continue reading at Graffiti With Punctuation

Baz Luhrman and Cast to Visit Australia For Premiere of 'The Great Gatsby'

Warner Bros. Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures have announced today that filmmakers Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin, together with cast-members Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton and Elizabeth Debicki, will attend the Australian Premiere of the The Great Gatsby at Hoyts, The Entertainment Quarter, on Wednesday 22nd May 2013.

Sydney will be the third city to host a Premiere event after New York and the opening of the 66th Cannes Film Festival.

The Great Gatsby follows would-be writer Nick Carraway as he leaves the Midwest and comes to New York City in the spring of 1922, an era of loosening morals, glittering jazz, bootleg kings, and sky-rocketing stocks. Chasing his own American Dream, Nick lands next door to a mysterious, party-giving millionaire, Jay Gatsby, and across the bay from his cousin, Daisy, and her philandering, blue-blooded husband, Tom Buchanan. It is thus that Nick is drawn into the captivating world of the super rich, their illusions, loves and deceits. As Nick bears witness, within and without of the world he inhabits, he pens a tale of impossible love, incorruptible dreams and high-octane tragedy, and holds a mirror to our own modern times and struggles.

Leo DiCaprio stars as Jay Gatsby, with Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway, Carey Mulligan and Joel Edgerton as Daisy and Tom Buchanan, Isla Fisher and Jason Clarke as Myrtle and George Wilson, and Elizabeth Debicki as Jordan Baker. Indian film legend Amitabh Bachchan will play the role of Meyer Wolfsheim.

Oscar nominee Luhrmann directs the film in 3D from a screenplay co-written with frequent collaborator Craig Pearce, based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel. Luhrmann produces, along with Catherine Martin, Douglas Wick, Lucy Fisher and Catherine Knapman. The executive producers are Barrie M. Osborne, JAY Z, and Bruce Berman.

THE GREAT GATSBY will release in Australian cinemas on 30th May 2013.

2013 German Film Festival Review: The Break-Up Man

The Break-Up Man will be screening as part of the Audi Festival of German Films, which presents an audacious collection of contemporary German cinema, celebrating the rich diversity of one of Europe’s most dynamic and creatively renowned cultures.

Showcasing 45 award-winning films and documentaries from inspiring thrillers to wry comedies and critically lauded feature dramas, the Festival will take place across 8 cities throughout the first two weeks of May, and, for the first time, will include Newcastle and Byron Bay.

SYDNEY:  30 April  - 14 May  Chauvel Cinema, Palace Verona
MELBOURNE:   1 – 15 May  Palace Cinema Como, Kino Cinemas
BRISBANE:   3 – 9 May  Palace Centro
NEWCASTLE   4 – 5 May  Tower Cinemas
CANBERRA:  7 – 12 May   Palace Electric Cinema
ADELAIDE:   8 – 13 May  Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas
PERTH:   9 – 13 May  Cinema Paradiso
BYRON BAY: 10 – 12 May  Palace Byron Bay

Writer, director and star Matthias Schweighofer’s outrageous buddy/romantic comedy, The Break-Up Man, has the second highest grossing film to hit German cinemas there this year and is sure to be one of the most popular films at this year’s Audi Festival of German Films. While certainly not short on gags, Schweighofer’s second feature has inconsistencies with the characterizations and peculiar stylistic choices, but remains an amusing crowd-pleaser with a good heart.
The Break-Up Man is a wild ride, following a man named Paul Voigt (Schweighofer), a handsome and ambitious high-flyer who has blossomed into his exclusive company’s best ‘relationship ender’. He brings disappointing news to others while living in empty, emotionless luxury, unable to make his own relationships work. When Paul makes an unexpected connection with the unlikeliest of characters, Toto (Milan Peschel), a suicidal broken-heart unable to accept his new single status, he agrees to allow Toto to be his driver and accompany him on a company trip to bring up 1000 break-ups (pointlessly set up to feel against-the-clock) and secure desired company Partnership.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Giveaway: Double Passes to 'The Place Beyond the Pines'

The Place Beyond the Pines, the new film from Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine) starring Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendes, opens at Dendy Newtown, Opera Quays and Canberra on May 9.

Thanks to Dendy Cinemas and Roadshow, we have 5 doubles passes to give away exclusively for the advanced screenings on May 3-5.

Entries close on Saturday 27th April at 11.00pm.

To enter, all you have to do is email your name and 'Fathers and Sons' to andrew.buckle22@gmail.com with 'Pines Giveaway' as the subject. Restrictions apply on use of the passes - valid only at Dendy Cinemas in Sydney and Canberra on dates spanning May 3-5. Winners will be notified via email.

Motorcycle stunt rider Luke (Ryan Gosling) faces a personal crisis when he discovers he has a son with his sometime girlfriend Romina (Eva Mendes). Realizing that his way of life doesn't provide him with the means to support a family, Luke turns to robbing banks. Unfortunately, at one of his heists he crosses the path of an ambitious rookie cop (Bradley Cooper) under the tutelage of a corrupt detective. Their confrontation leads the two men on a collision course.

See the trailer and more about the film here: http://www.dendy.com.au/Movie/The-Place-Beyond-The-Pines

Best of luck! 

Review: Warm Bodies (Jonathan Levine, 2013)

Warm Bodies is an entertaining genre mash up that works more often than not, becoming a hybrid of romantic drama/zombie thriller with splashes of not just blood, but social commentary and humor. Written and directed by Jonathan Levine (The Wackness, 50/50), a sharp adaptation of Isaac Marion's YA bestseller of the same name, Warm Bodies has a decent helping of creeps, laughs and romance.

We are first introduced to R (Nicholas Hoult, Skins), one of a horde of Zombies who wander around an airport following a Zombie apocalypse. It is revealed through R's amusing voice-over, the expression of his unique and strangely existent inner thoughts, the emotions and anxieties he cannot express, that he cannot remember when he became a Zombie or who he was before, but he has an uncontrollable craving for human flesh. Eating their brains makes him feel alive, revealing the memories of the former owners.

When R meets a human girl Julie Grigio (Teresa Palmer, Wish You Were Here), on a mission to recover medical supplies from abandoned buildings ordered by her father, the leader of a heavily-fortified human enclave, he is immediately drawn to her. Instead of killing her, he rescues her and protects her from his hungry friends, and the more savage skeletal Zombies called 'Bonies'. Over time R begins to regain his humanity as a result of their unexpected connection, which becomes the catalyst for more to follow.


The Hunger Games: Catching Fire begins as Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has returned home safe after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games along with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson).

Winning means that they must turn around and leave their family and close friends, embarking on a "Victor's Tour" of the districts. Along the way Katniss senses that a rebellion is simmering, but the Capitol is still very much in control as President Snow prepares the 75th Annual Hunger Games (The Quarter Quell) - a competition that could change Panem forever.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is directed by Francis Lawrence, and produced by Nina Jacobson’s Color Force in tandem with producer Jon Kilik. The novel on which the film is based is the second in a trilogy that has over 50 million copies in print in the U.S. alone.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire will be released in Australian cinemas on November 21, 2013.

Monday, April 15, 2013

New Releases (18/04/13)

In cinemas this week we have Olympus Has Fallen, The Company You Keep, No, The Other Son and Chasing Ice.

Olympus Has Fallen - When the White House (Secret Service Code: "Olympus") is captured by a terrorist mastermind and the President is kidnapped, disgraced former Presidential guard Mike Banning finds himself trapped within the building. As our national security team scrambles to respond, they are forced to rely on Banning's inside knowledge to help retake the White House, save the President and avert an even bigger crisis. Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) directs an all-star cast featuring Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, Ashley Judd and Rick Yune.

The Company You Keep - A wanted man and former member of the revolutionary militant group, Weather Underground, goes on the run after a journalist (Shia LaBeouf) outs him in this political thriller based on Neil Gordon's novel. Robert Redford stars and directs.

No - In 1988, Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet, due to international pressure, is forced to call a plebiscite on his presidency. The country will vote YES or NO to Pinochet extending his rule for another eight years. Opposition leaders for the NO persuade a brash young advertising executive, Rene Saavedra (Gael Garcia Bernal), to spearhead their campaign. Against all odds, with scant resources and under scrutiny by the despot's minions, Saavedra and his team devise an audacious plan to win the election and set Chile free.

The Other Son -  A moving and provocative tale of two young men - one Israeli, the other Palestinian - who discover they were accidentally switched at birth, and the complex repercussions facing them and their respective families.

Chasing Ice - Acclaimed National Geographic photographer James Balog was once a skeptic about climate change. But through his Extreme Ice Survey, he discovers undeniable evidence of our changing planet. In Chasing Ice, Balog deploys revolutionary time-lapse cameras to capture a multi-year record of the world's changing glaciers. His hauntingly beautiful videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate. Traveling with a team of young adventurers across the brutal Arctic, Balog risks his career and his well-being in pursuit of the biggest story facing humanity. As the debate polarizes America, and the intensity of natural disasters ramps up globally, Chasing Ice depicts a heroic photojournalist on a mission to deliver fragile hope to our carbon-powered planet.

My weekly recommendation is 'No'.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Review: Oblivion (Joseph Kosinki, 2013)

Director Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy), who co-adapted the screenplay with William Monahan (The Departed), Karl Gajdusek and Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine) from his own unpublished graphic novel, has created an atmospheric and impeccably designed, if evidently derivative, sci-fi that effectively immerses a viewer in it’s fascinating world. Oblivion intrigues and surprises, on an emotional and stylistic level.

Following a war between humanity and an invading alien race sixty years earlier that has left Earth a ravaged wasteland, mankind is in the process of starting a colony on Saturn’s largest moons. Currently orbiting the Earth in an enormous space shelter, they have stationed on the surface Jack Harper (Tom Cruise), a mechanic who monitors and repairs patrolling drones and supervises the machines mining for the planet’s natural resources. When a spaceship unexpectedly crashes, Jack’s bond with one of the human survivors (Olga Kurylenko), a woman he recognises from a recurring dream, influences his understanding about the world he inhabits, leading him to discover the truth about humanity and his unlikely role in its future.

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Friday, April 12, 2013

2013 Blindspot Series: A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven, 1984)

Of course, I am late again. Originally, I had intended to watch and write about Luis Bunuel's The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie as March's blind spot film, but I have since found it impossible to discuss following my experience with it. I like Viridiana and some of Bunuel's other films, but I just wasn't on the wavelength of this social satire/comedy of manners. Surreal and intermittently very funny, but I just never got immersed.

So, I decided to write about a film that wasn't on my list but was another glaring hole in my film knowledge, and most specifically my horror knowledge - Wes Craven's masterpiece A Nightmare on Elm Street and in extension Chuck Russell's inventive second sequel A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. 

There are some *spoilers* to follow. 

The horror genre is all about consciously watching your nightmares unfold on screen, and A Nightmare on Elm Street is a brilliant example of how cinema can toy with our perceptions of interlocking dream and reality. It is a very creepy film, and Craven has utilised every trick in his book - an iconic villain, some effective make up and effects and a chilling score - to create one of the finest entries in the teen slasher genre. It is a film sure to have kept many viewers up all night fretting about falling asleep. 

There are some nightmare sequences here that commence seamlessly following our perception of the character's last conscious state and we can never be sure whether what we are watching is taking place inside the characters' heads. A great example is Nancy falling asleep while in class. Entering the hall, having seen the now-dead Tina, Nancy follows a bloody body bag containing Tina's corpse that is being dragged by an invisible figure through the school halls. From what we have already seen, anything is possible. When Nancy enlists her boyfriend to sit by her bed and make sure she doesn't fall asleep while she tries to communicate with the imprisoned Rod, we 'believe' we are watching exactly what she does.

The film also tackles small town civil justice and the repercussions of taking the life of an individual. The death of Freddy Krueger, despite his horrific crimes, stained the soul of everyone involved. They will never forget what they did and their children, innocent of any involvement, are forced to face the wrath of Freddy's revenge. There are countless classic moments - Freddy's long-limbed introduction, the bathtub scene, the death of Johnny Depp (in his first screen role) - with Craven doing a great job ensuring the suspense never lets up.

For me, A Nightmare on Elm Street is Craven's masterwork so far. But only Scream (1996) has come close, really. There is relentless intensity and commendably, a perceptive heroine at centre of the narrative. We believe we will be following one character for a while, but the focus shifts. Nancy begins to understand that her meetings with Freddy only take place when she falls asleep, and she does all she can to keep herself awake. She has brought back items and injuries from her altercations, so she prepares herself, building weapons and setting traps in her home, in the hopes of luring Freddy into the real world. 

Dream Warriors grows increasingly silly but it is an effective sequel that incorporates more characters and gives the film a fresh feel by shifting the setting from a suburban neighbourhood to a psychiatric hospital. The core group of characters have all experienced similar nightmares, and survived suicide attempts as a result. Here the nightmares are personalised, allowing Russell to build some inventive dream scapes and the character's to possess unique in-dream abilities. It also utilises the idea of shared dreaming, which allows the remaining characters to work together inside a shared dream, rather than be helpless inside their individual nightmares. It is certainly not as effective as Craven's film, but there is a sense of humour which works well and it is an enjoyable extension of the story. It would have made quite a clever closing film, but alas the series continued.

I have been recommended skipping the next few films and tackling New Nightmare. Thoughts?

Review: The Company You Keep (Robert Redford, 2013)

The Company You Keep is directed by Robert Redford (Quiz Show) and adapted by Lem Dobbs (The Limey) from the novel by Neil Gordon. Ben Shepard (Shia Labeouf), an upstart Albany reporter smells a big case following the arrest of Sharon Solarz (Sarandon), a member of Weather Underground, a radical left organization involved in the shooting death of a bank security guard in the 70’s. His probing leads him to a single-parent lawyer, Jim Grant (Robert Redford), who refuses to counsel the case and seems averse to questioning and speculation about his relationship to Solarz. When it becomes clear that Grant is not who he claims, and believed to be another long-time fugitive, the FBI, with Shepard in tow, pursue the resourceful Grant across the country as he seeks out accomplices to help him clear his name.

The humanist founder of the Sundance Film Festival and the motor-mouth kid from the Transformers films are at the core of this film. LaBeaouf is impressive here, talking at one hundred miles an hour and often scrounging for a pad and pen with a phone to his ear. He’s persistent and unpredictable, playing above his weight, but his genuine enthusiasm in the case and the individuals involved manages to convince his sources to cooperate. Redford proves he is still a presence in front of the camera, despite his recent lack of inventiveness as a director (as demonstrated by 2011’s The Conspirator). 

Continue reading at Graffiti With Punctuation

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sydney Highlights: Fantastic Planet Horror, Sci-fi and Fantasy Film Festival

Between April 11-21 the 2013 Fantastic Planet: Sydney Horror, Sci-fi and Fantasy Film Festival will be under way at Dendy Newtown.

Tonight marked the opening night of the festival with All Superheroes Must Die with a Q and A with the writer/director and cast.

Other highlights of this year's festival include:

The Taking (World Premiere Sat. 15 April) - If David Lynch had written and directed The Texas Chainsaw Massacre it well could have resembled this feverish and stylised nightmare. A man and a woman both seeking vengeance, are drawn into the depths of a mysterious forest. Sadistic locals have far more horrifying plans for the two interlopers than just torturing the flesh of their bodies. A dark masterpiece that proves there are still original stories to be told in the horror genre, and masterful ways to tell them. Plus there is a Q and A with the film's writer/directors: The BAPartists (Cezil Reed and Lydelle Jackson).

Sinister (Australian Premiere Sun. 14 April) - The frightening new thriller from the producer of the Paranormal Activity films and the writer-director of The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Ethan Hawke plays a true crime novelist who discovers a box of mysterious, disturbing home movies that plunge his family into a nightmarish experience of supernatural horror.

Crawlspace (Sydney Premiere Fri. 19 April) - Enter the depths of the military base at Australia's own Area 51, in this action and twist-filled sci-fi/horror from the producer of Wolf Creek. Beneath the underground facility, elite soldiers encounter a mysterious survivor, the beautiful Eve. With Eve in two, the team must battle their way through escaped inhuman inmates and fight off the devastating psychic attacks rooted in their own darkest fears. Includes Q and A with director Justin Dix.

Grave (Australian Premiere Sat. 20 April) - Aiden (Josh Lawson) fantasises about taking the law into his own hands. His detective friend (Ron Pearlman) does little to dissuade Aiden's dreams of vigilantism, by agreeing that criminals should be killed. The only thing stopping Aiden's descent is the beautiful Virginia (Emma Lung). But the return of her boyfriend (Edward Furlong) pushes Aiden over the delusional line he has long straddled.

Click here to visit the website and for more info regarding the rest of the program, ticket prices and special events.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Review: No (Pablo Larrain, 2012)

No is an engrossing, behind-the-scenes period docu-drama from Chilean director Pablo Larrain, revolving around the pivotal 1988 referendum to usurp dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Gael Garcia Bernal (Y Tu Mama Tambien) stars as Rene Saavedra, a talented and sought-after ad-man who is poached to lead the creative team behind the NO campaign. Despite pressures up the hierarchy, Rene wasn’t interested in provoking fear or bombarding viewers with the images presenting the negatives of the Pinochet regime, believing a happy, upbeat and colourful tone was the key to winning over the people. Lucho Guzman (Alfredo Castro), Rene’s Boss, and his YES associates view his siding as traitorous and foolish, but Rene accepts the challenge to convince an oppressed nation that the future will be defined by positivity.

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Interview: Sydney Film Festival Director Nashen Moodley

Graffiti With Punctuation would like to thank Nashen Moodley, the Festival Director of the Sydney Film Festival, now in his second year following a cracking line-up last year, for taking the time to chat with us and extend warm congratulations on the preview announcement of this year’s exciting lineup.

AB: It is fantastic to see Park Chan-wook’s neo-gothic thriller Stoker amongst the lineup. I know a lot of people who had their fingers crossed hoping they would get the chance to see it. Have you met Park by any chance and do you know what it was about this story that inspired him to make his first English language film?

NM: I am a big fan of his work. Joint Security Area is a masterpiece, and Oldboy and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance are great films. I believe he was approached to direct. There was a lot of excitement about the script when it was pitched, and he agreed to come on board.

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New Releases (11/04/13)

New in cinemas this week are another eclectic bunch of films. We have blockbusters, animated films, teen horror spoofs, documentaries and foreign films, and they include: Oblivion, Escape From Planet Earth, Scary Movie V, Warm Bodies, First Position, Kon-Tiki and Therese Desqueyroux.

At this point I have only seen one, First Position, but by the end of the week I should also have seen Oblivion, Warm Bodies and Kon-Tiki. 

Oblivion - A court martial sends a veteran soldier to a distant planet, where he is to destroy the remains of an alien race. The arrival of an unexpected traveler causes him to question what he knows about the planet, his mission, and himself. Stars Tom Cruise.

Escape From Planet Earth - The 3D animated family comedy catapults moviegoers to planet Baab where admired astronaut Scorch Supernova (Brendan Fraser) is a national hero to the blue alien population. A master of daring rescues, Scorch pulls off astonishing feats with the quiet aid of his nerdy, by-the-rules brother, Gary (Rob Corddry), head of mission control at BASA. When BASA's no-nonsense chief Lena (Jessica Alba) informs the brothers of an SOS from a notoriously dangerous planet, Scorch rejects Gary's warnings and bounds off for yet another exciting mission. But when Scorch finds himself caught in a fiendish trap set by the evil Shanker (William Shatner) it's up to scrawny, risk-adverse Gary to do the real rescuing.

Scary Movie V - The latest installment of the Scary Movie franchise includes send ups of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, MAMA, SINISTER, THE EVIL DEAD, INCEPTION, BLACK SWAN and pop culture featuring Ashley Tisdale, Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, Snoop Dogg, Katt Williams, Molly Shannon, Terry Crews and Mike Tyson. Okaaaaayy. No one asked for this, and Australian audiences have yet to see Sinister and The Evil Dead.

Warm Bodies - A funny new twist on a classic love story, Warm Bodies is a poignant tale about the power of human connection. After a zombie epidemic, R (Nicholas Hoult, a highly unusual zombie) encounters Julie (Teresa Palmer, a human survivor), and rescues her from a zombie attack. Julie sees that R is different from the other zombies, and as the two form a special relationship in their struggle for survival, R becomes increasingly more human - setting off an exciting, romantic, and often comical chain of events that begins to transform the other zombies and maybe even the whole lifeless world. 

First PositionEvery year, thousands of aspiring dancers enter one of the world's most prestigious ballet competitions, the Youth America Grand Prix, where lifelong dreams are at stake. In the final round, with hundreds competing for only a handful of elite scholarships and contracts, practice and discipline are paramount, and nothing short of perfection is expected. Bess Kargman's award-winning documentary, First Position, follows six young dancers as they prepare for a chance to enter the world of professional ballet, struggling through bloodied feet, near exhaustion and debilitating injuries, all while navigating the drama of adolescence. A showcase of awe-inspiring talent, tenacity and passion, First Position paints a thrilling and moving portrait of the most gifted young ballet stars of tomorrow.

Kon-Tiki - Max Manus co-directors Espen Sanberg and Joachim Rønning reteam for this sweeping adventure detailing Thor Heyerdahl's daring attempt to prove that early settlers from South America once populated Polynesia by sailing across the Pacific on a simple balsa wood raft. Rejected by every publisher he approaches to print his unusual thesis, Heyerdahl (Pål Sverre Hagen) eventually decides that the only way to prove it is to make the journey himself as the entire world watches.

Therese Desqueyroux - François Mauriac's legendary 1927 novel of French provincial life has been gloriously brought to the screen by the inestimable Claude Miller in his final film. Sumptuously photographed to capture the full beauty of the pine-forested Landes area in southwest France, it is a beautifully conceived drama of exquisite taste. Marvelously played by the luminous Audrey Tautou, Thérèse is a heroine hewn from the same stock as Madame Bovary or Anna Karenina, suffocated by her provincial marriage. Thérèse has married less for love than for convenience, but it is not long before the casual disinterestedness shown her by her arrogant husband, Bernard (Gilles Lellouche), sets her mind in motion. When Thérèse's best friend Anne (Anaïs Demoustier), who also happens to be Bernard's younger sister, falls madly in love with a handsome young Portuguese man, Thérèse begins to see what she has been missing in her life. Corralled by Bernard's family into persuading Anne to forego her planned nuptials, she begins to see first-hand the awesome power of passionate love, as Anne will go to any length to keep her lover by her side. Soon, Thérèse begins her own fight against the oppressive Desqueyroux family.

Weekly Recommendation: There has been no word on Oblivion at all yet, and it is hard to gauge how good it is going to be based on the trailer, but based on the critical response Warm Bodies, Kon-Tiki and Therese D are all worth considering. First Position comes recommended, a transcendent and inspiring documentary about the dedication of young people in pursuit of a dream.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Review: Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God (Alex Gibney, 2012)

Alex Gibney, the Academy Award winning director of Taxi to the Dark Side (2007), has returned with another hell-fire of controversy documentary in Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, a revelatory and deeply upsetting probe into shocking accounts of unpunished (and ignored) child sexual abuse and a damningly potent indictment of the Catholic Church’s cover-up.

The chief target is Father Lawrence Murphy, claimed to have sexually abused about 200 young deaf boys – and specifically ones who could not communicate with their parents via American Sign Language – at a Milwaukee school for the hearing impaired dating back to the 1950s. But Gibney also sets in motion an expose on the highest orders of the Vatican, including the recently retired Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict 16th) who, before taking on the role as the Bishop of Rome, was assigned sole chief investigative power over cases of suspected pedophilia. Ratzinger’s lack of action was influenced by a century-spanning stipulation by the Vatican that known cases of pedophilia be quieted and taken care of internally. This involved relocation of the priest, psychological treatment, even proposed secluded island ostracism. Any perpetrators were to be protected from criminal charges. Any victims who desired justice were bought out.

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Friday, April 5, 2013

Review: First Position (Bess Kargman, 2012)

I watched First Position at last year's Melbourne International Film Festival. This is an extension of my thoughts from there. First Position, distributed through Hopscotch, hits cinemas April 11. 

This inspiring, crowd-pleasing and cleverly conceived documentary is a tribute to passion and commitment, the strict devotion to realising one's dreams. First Position, directed by Bess Kargman, chronicles six youngsters of different ages as they strain their bodies to the limit in competition for a spot in the final of the Youth America Grand Prix. We are privileged to the dramatic back stories of several young ballet dancers - Aran Bell (a prodigy living with his military family in Italy), Michaela DePrince (an orphaned girl from Sierra Leone who has been adopted by a Philadelphia family), Jules and Miko Fogarty, Joan Sebastian Zamora and Rebecca Housekneckt - and given insight into their upbringing and daily childhood lives (home schooling for example, which allows more time for dancing), their rigorous training, their backstage preparations and their emotions immediately after performing. We are given privileged access to each dancer, so we invested in the drama of their 'one-shot' performances.

We understand the sacrifices these talented youngsters have made, are moved by their courage to overcome self-doubt, disappointment and even serious injury and credit their body-abusing hard work and determination. First Position is an engrossing, heartwarming documentary and like all great non-fiction films, transcends the subject matter. It culminates in a familiar final showdown - the Grand Prix - with all of the children arriving on the big stage. The stakes are high, and the panel of judges - representatives of major dance companies and academies - could offer them a career path. I was nearly brought to tears in the end by these compelling young stories in all of their intensity and grace.

My Rating: ★★★★

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Giveaway: Double Passes to 'No' (In Cinemas April 18)

No is a funny, behind-the-scenes period comedy/drama from Chilean director Pablo Larrain, revolving around the 1988 referendum on the Pinochet regime in Chile and the ad campaign wars that changed the route of the country. It was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2012 Academy Awards, representing Chile.

I caught the film at the Melbourne International Film Festival last year, and here were my brief thoughts following the screening:

"Having no knowledge of the politics, it did take me a little while to immerse myself in Larrain's interesting and provocative film, but when I did I found No, to be aesthetically inventive and often very funny. It won the top prize at the Director's Fortnight at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Gael Garcia Bernal, terrific as usual, plays a talented ad man hired to lead the creative team behind the NO campaign in the referendum to abolish/reinstate communism in Chile. A struggle soon ensures between his new colleagues over whether his vision (an upbeat tone similar to a coca-cola ad) will prove to be successful, and former colleagues, who view his new position as traitorous. Larrain chooses a very interesting look and the low-quality, home-video appearance (shot on period U-matic tape) and the square 4:3 ratio will initially throw some viewers, but it makes the blending of actual footage from the time, and these scripted sequences, all te more convincing. Its an unlikely story, and to think that the country's oppression was overthrown as a result of this professional struggle, is extraordinary. Tone and story shifts between being hilarious and dramatically and emotionally involving in surprisingly effortless ways, and this sophisticated work is worth celebrating."

Thanks to Rialto Distribution I have five double passes to No to give away. Entries close on Sunday 14th April at 11.00pm, with the film scheduled for release in cinemas April 18. 

To enter, all you have to do is email your name and the name of one film staring Gael Garcia Bernal (not No) to andrew.buckle22@gmail.com with 'No Giveaway' as the subject. Restrictions may apply on use of the passes, but these will be clearly specified. Winners will be notified via email.

Please note: This giveaway is only valid for Australian residents for mailing purposes.

New Releases (04/04/13)

In cinemas this week is the 20th Century 3D re-release of Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park, Danny Boyle's mind-bending new thriller Trance starring James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel and Rosario Dawson, a 'horrendous-looking' new comedy from the director of Horrible Bosseses, Identity Thief, starring Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman, and popular indie comedy, Sleepwalk with Me.

Jurassic Park - The film follows two dinosaur experts -- Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Dr. Ellie Sattler Laura Dern) -- as they are invited by eccentric millionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) to preview his new amusement park on an island off Costa Rica. By cloning DNA harvested from pre-historic insects, Hammond has been able to create living dinosaurs for his new Jurassic Park, an immense animal preserve housing real Brachiosaurs, Dilophosaurs, Triceratops, Velociraptors, and a Tyrannosaur Rex. Accompanied by cynical scientist Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), who is obsessed with chaos theory, and Hammond's two grandchildren (Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello), they are sent on a tour through Hammond's new resort in computer controlled touring cars. But as a tropical storm hits the island, knocking out the power supply, and an unscrupulous employee (Wayne Knight) sabotages the system so that he can smuggle dinosaur embryos out of the park, the dinosaurs start to rage out of control. Grant then has to bring Hammond's grandchildren back to safety as the group is pursued by the gigantic man-eating beasts.

Trance - Simon (James McAvoy), a fine art auctioneer, teams up with a criminal gang to steal a Goya painting worth millions of dollars, but after suffering a blow to the head during the heist he awakens to discover he has no memory of where he hid the painting. When physical threats and torture fail to produce answers, the gang's leader Frank (Vincent Cassel) hires hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson) to delve into the darkest recesses of Simon's psyche. As Elizabeth begins to unravel Simon's broken subconscious, the lines between truth, suggestion, and deceit begin to blur.

Identity Thief - Unlimited funds have allowed Diana (McCarthy) to live it up on the outskirts of Miami, where the queen of retail buys whatever strikes her fancy. There's only one glitch: The ID she's using to finance these sprees reads "Sandy Bigelow Patterson"....and it belongs to an accounts rep (Bateman) who lives halfway across the U.S. With only one week to hunt down the con artist before his world implodes, the real Sandy Bigelow Patterson heads south to confront the woman with an all-access pass to his life. And as he attempts to bribe, coax and wrangle her the 2,000 miles to Denver, one easy target will discover just how tough it is to get your name back.

Sleepwalk With Me - "I'm going to tell you a story, and it's true....I always have to tell people that." So asserts comedian-turned-playwright-turned-filmmaker Mike Birbiglia directly to the viewer at the outset of his autobiographically inspired, fictional feature debut. Birbiglia wears his incisive wit on his sleeve while portraying a cinematic surrogate. We are thrust into the tale of a burgeoning stand-up comedian struggling with the stress of a stalled career, a stale relationship threatening to race out of his control, and the wild spurts of severe sleepwalking he is desperate to ignore. Based on the successful one-man show, Sleepwalk With Me engages in the kind of passionate and personal storytelling that transfigures intimate anguish into comic art.

Weekly Recommendation: Certainly a stronger week that recent times. Everyone has seen Jurassic Park, but how many people younger than me (25) saw it first on the big screen? I was five at the time and thinking back, I wonder what my parents were thinking. It is an at-times terrifying film, and the technical achievements are genius. I'm not sure whether the 3D addition is warranted, but I know that there are some films worth catching again on the big screen and Jurassic Park is one of them. Trance is not amongst Danny Boyle's best films - his resume is packed with gold, though - but my brain exploded trying to keep up with the film's twists and turns, and energetic pace. Brilliantly acted (especially McAvoy) and directed with no style to spare, this is also a recommended cinema experience. I have heard great things about Sleepwalk With Me (limited release at Dendy Newtown here in Sydney) - and check out Cam's review of the film (linked above) for positive endorsement.