Monday, September 22, 2014

New Releases (25/09/14)

New in cinemas this week: The Equalizer, Life of Crime, The Skeleton Twins, The Little Death, In Bloom and Land of the Bears.

The Equalizer - Denzel Washington plays McCall, a man who believes he has put his mysterious past behind him and dedicated himself to beginning a new, quiet life. But when McCall meets Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young girl under the control of ultra-violent Russian gangsters, he can't stand idly by. Armed with hidden skills that allow him to serve vengeance against anyone who would brutalize the helpless, McCall comes out of his self-imposed retirement and finds his desire for justice reawakened. If someone has a problem, if the odds are stacked against them, and if they have nowhere else to turn, McCall will help. Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen).

Life of Crime - Based on Elmore Leonard's novel "The Switch," Life of Crime is a dark caper comedy starring Jennifer Aniston, John Hawkes, Yasiin Bey, Will Forte, Mark Boone Junior, Isla Fisher and Tim Robbins. The wife (Anniston) of a corrupt real estate developer (Robbins) is kidnapped by two common criminals (Bey and Hawkes), who intend to extort him with inside information about his crooked business and off-shore accounts. But the husband decides he'd actually rather not pay the ransom to get back his wife, setting off an unbelievable sequence of double crosses and plot twists.

The Skeleton Twins - When estranged twins Maggie (Kristen Wiig) and Milo (Bill Hader) feel they're at the end of their ropes, an unexpected reunion forces them to confront why their lives went so wrong. As the twins reconnect, they realize the key to fixing their lives may just lie in repairing their relationship. ★1/2

The Little Death - An original comedy about sex, love, relationships and taboo. In a multi-story narrative, we peer behind the closed doors of a seemingly normal suburban street - including a woman with a dangerous fantasy and her partners who struggle to please her, and a man who begins an affair with his own wife without her knowing anything about it.  

In Bloom - Early nineties, in Tbilisi, the capital of the newly independent Georgia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The country is facing violence, war on the Black Sea coast (Abkhazia) and vigilante justice that plague society. But for Eka and Natia, fourteen-year-old inseparable friends, life just unfolds: in the street, at school, with friends or elder sisters who are already dealing with men's dominance, early marriage and disillusioned love. For these two girls in bloom life just goes on.

The Land of the Bears - Provides an unforgettable 3D vision of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula ,
a region famous for its rich and dynamic population of brown bears. Offering an exclusive look
into the lives of these amazing beasts, we follow several bears, each at a unique phase in their
lives. Cubs learning from their mothers; young males making their own way; seasoned veterans
marking out the best salmon territory – all looking to stock up in time for hibernation.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

2014 Toronto International Film Festival Awards

To wrap up the Toronto International Film Festival, which I attended for the entirety and finished up on Sunday, here are some personal awards I’d like to honour some of the very best films with:

Best Feature Film: Nightcrawler

Runner/s Up:
Foxcatcher, Clouds of Sils Maria and Girlhood

Best Documentary: Tales of the Grim Sleeper

Runner/s Up: I Am Here

Best Debut Feature: Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler

Runner/s Up: Theodor Melfi, St Vincent

Best Actor: Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler

Runner/s Up: Steve Carrell/Channing Tatum, Foxcatcher, and Bill Murray, St Vincent

Best Actress: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Beyond the Lights

Runner/s Up: Karidja Toure, Girlhood, Sidse Babett Knudsen/Chiara D'Anna, The Duke of Burgundy

Best Supporting Actress: Kristen Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria

Runner/s Up: Yelena Lyadova, Leviathan

Best Supporting Actor: Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

Runner/s Up: Sam Rockwell, Laggies

Best Director: Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler

Runner/s Up: Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher, Celine Sciamma, Girlhood 

Best Screenplay: Olivier Assayas, Clouds of Sils Maria

Runner/s Up: Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler, Noah Baumbach, While We're Young

Best Cinematography: Nightcrawler

Runner/s Up: Leviathan, The Duke of Burgundy

Best Score: It Follows 

Runner/s Up: The Duke of Burgundy, Nightcrawler

Best Use of Soundtrack: Girlhood

Runner Up: Beyond the Lights, Eden

Best Scene/s: 'Lou in pursuit' in Nightcrawler, 'Dave getting Mark back down to weight' in Foxcatcher, 'Valentine takes a drive' in Clouds of Sils Maria and 'Diamonds' in Girlhood. 

Final Rankings:

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Forgotten: Possession at An Online Universe

Over at An Online Universe I explain why Possession (Andrzej Zulawski, 1981) is one of my Top 20 horror films of all time.

Zulawski’s domestic melodrama come psychological thriller come gruesome creature horror is one of the most chaotic and deranged films I have ever experienced. It is a ghastly film that is sure to leave an imprint on anyone who survives it. But, being pretty inaccessible, it isn’t a film you hear about too often.

Continue reading at An Online Universe

Friday, August 29, 2014

Monthly Round-up: August 2014 Viewing

This month I watched a total of 31 films, but it felt like a pretty relaxed effort. I rarely visited the cinemas (Lucy, 1987, the Opening Night Gala of Possible Worlds, and Guardians of the Galaxy were the only trips). I haven't been writing much of late. Work has been very busy, and I have been much more interested in reading. This month I finished off Dune, then read The Dangerous Animals Club by Stephen Tobolowsky (which was amazing) and Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto (the writer of True Detective) within a week, before starting the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. It is incredible. There have been stretches where I couldn't put it down. 

On Sunday we fly to San Francisco, where we will be spending a few days, before making our way to Toronto for the entirety of the Toronto International Film Festival. I posted my line-up this morning. Not only is this film geek heaven, the chance to be a part of the city vibe during one of the world's top film festivals, but a much needed break. Follow me on Twitter (@buckle22) for all of my coverage.

New-to-Me Viewing (In Order of Preference)

Friday Night Lights (Peter Berg, 2004) - I have only seen a few episodes of the much-loved show, but I was satisfied with this to be honest. Loved the casting (Hedlund, Luke etc.) - even though I have heard that Billy Bob is no Kyle Chandler in this role. I find stories about the commitment to an unorthodox philosophy - 'be perfect' - very interesting. Especially underdog sport stories. This was inspiring. Maybe a tad overuse of the montage, but Berg (in his best work as director by far) managed to build character and establish the enveloping community pressure - never-were's with unreasonable expectations for these teenagers, who ultimately have one chance at 'glory' themselves. Winning isn't the only road there.

Sleepless Night (Frederic Jardin, 2011) - Relentless action, hectic and well-staged. Terrific use of the lone (mostly) location and establishes an emotional connection with our hero, played by an actor who should be in more things.

Pulp: A Film About Life, Death and Supermarkets (Florian Habicht, 2014) - This is hardcore. Celebration of the band's relationship with Sheffield (and vice versa) as they seek a perfect finale to their decade-spanning musical dream. So watchable.

Field of Dreams (Phil Alden Robinson, 1989) - Got teary at the end. What a lovely film. Costner is so endearing; his passion, enthusiasm and unwavering hope is infectious. Also wonderful is Burt Lancaster.

Lucy (Luc Besson, 2014) *TWICE*

Out of the Furnace (Scott Cooper, 2014) - Cooper's tough, authentic and well acted (by Bale, Affleck and Harrelson in particular, but when aren't they?) thriller about two brothers forced, by necessity, down paths of uncertain return really shook me up. The first half was great, the second just okay, but certainly worthwhile viewing. The challenges faced by the characters was thrilling, and this effortlessly transported me to the economically-depressed Rust Belt.

Inside Man (Spike Lee, 2006) - Smartly made, unpredictable, genre-twisting heist thriller with Spike Lee's usual class/race tensions and flab. One of Denzel's best performances...recently.

TIFF 2014 Schedule

Alright folks, here is what I will be seeing at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.

The reason we haven't got anything booked in on Thursday 11th September during the day is because we are taking the day off to visit Niagara Falls. We didn't fly across the world just to sit in a cinema.

There are a few films we were sad to miss. Rosewater, Men, Women and Children and Revenge of the Green Dragons were all on the list for a while, but they couldn't fit in the end. St Vincent and While We're Young were both Sold Out by the time our booking window was assigned, so we had to make some last minute substitutions. Definitely disappointing to miss them, but we may be able to score a rush ticket on the day. 

We have also seen several earlier in the year at the Sydney Film Festival: Mommy, Winter Sleep, Two Days, One Night and What We Do in the Shadows amongst them.

Several, such as The Judge, Force Majeure, Maps to the Stars, This is Where I Leave You, Whiplash, The Drop, The Good Lie and The Imitation Game are all getting a release in Australia in the months that follow so they have all been left on the sidelines too. A few, like Foxcatcher and Nightcrawler, are such big exciting films that we couldn't possibly pass on them, despite their announced release.

Thursday 4 September

Aire Libre - 5.45pm
Clouds of Sils Maria - 9.45pm

Friday 5 September

The Humbling - 11.30am
Eden - 5.45pm

Saturday 6 September

Nightcrawler - 12.00pm
Beyond the Lights - 6.00pm
The Duke of Burgundy - 10.00pm

Sunday 7 September

Itsi Bitsi - 9.30am
Top Five - 12.00pm
Monsoon - 6.30pm

Monday 8 September

The Last Five Years - 2.00pm
Waste Land - 4.30pm

Tuesday 9 September

Foxctcher - 12.00pm
It Follows - 4.00pm
I Am Here - 6.30pm
Girlhood - 8.45pm

Wednesday 10 September

A Second Chance - 11.30am
Good Kill - 3.00pm
Leviathan - 6.00pm
Tales of the Grim Sleeper - 9.30pm

Thursday 11 September

The Editor - 11.59pm

Friday 12 September

The Cobbler - 9.45am
Laggies - 12.45pm
Pasolini - 4.45pm
The Dead Lands - 10.45pm

Saturday 13 September

Adult Beginners - 12.00pm
Manglehorn - 2.30pm
The Riot Club - 8.00pm

Sunday 14 September

A Little Chaos - 9.00am
Haemoo - 12.00pm

Also at TIFF, what are you seeing? No doubt we'll have plenty of chances to swap schedules at the various meet-ups arranged, but if you're in town let me know.

Monday, August 25, 2014

New Releases (28/08/14)

In cinemas this week: Felony, If I Stay, Locke, Magic in the Moonlight, Predestination and Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return.

Felony - Three detectives become embroiled in a tense struggle after a tragic accident that leaves a child in critical condition. One is guilty of a crime, one will try to cover it up, and the other attempts to expose it. How far will these men go to disguise and unravel the truth? Directed by Matthew Saville and written by Joel Edgerton. Also stars Tom Wilkinson.

If I Stay - Mia Hall (Chloë Grace Moretz) thought the hardest decision she would ever face would be whether to pursue her musical dreams at Juilliard or follow a different path to be with the love of her life, Adam (Jamie Blackley). But what should have been a carefree family drive changes everything in an instant, and now her own life hangs in the balance. Caught between life and death for one revealing day, Mia has only one decision left, which will not only decide her future but her ultimate fate.

Locke - Ivan Locke (Hardy) has worked diligently to craft the life he has envisioned, dedicating himself to the job that he loves and the family he adores. On the eve of the biggest challenge of his career, Ivan receives a phone call that sets in motion a series of events that will unravel his family, job, and soul. All taking place over the course of one absolutely riveting car ride, Locke is an exploration of how one decision can lead to the complete collapse of a life. Directed by Steven Knight and driven by a commanding performance by Tom Hardy, Locke is a thrillingly unique cinematic experience of a man fighting to salvage all that is important to him. ★★

Magic in the Moonlight - Chinese conjuror Wei Ling Soo is the most celebrated magician of his age, but few know that he is the stage persona of Stanley Crawford (Colin Firth), a grouchy and arrogant Englishman with a sky-high opinion of himself and an aversion to phony spiritualists' claims. Persuaded by his friend, Howard Burkan (Simon McBurney), Stanley goes on a mission to the Côte d'Azur mansion of the Catledge family: mother Grace (Jacki Weaver), son Brice (Hamish Linklater), and daughter Caroline (Erica Leerhsen). He presents himself as a businessman named Stanley Taplinger in order to debunk the alluring young clairvoyant Sophie Baker (Emma Stone) who is staying there with her mother (Marcia Gay Harden). Sophie arrived at the Catledge villa at the invitation of Grace, who is convinced that Sophie can help her contact her late husband, and once there, attracted the attention of Brice, who has fallen for her head over heels. What follows is a series of events that are magical in every sense of the word and send the characters reeling.

Predestination - The latest film from the Spierig Brothers is about the life of a time-traveling Temporal Agent. On his final assignment, he must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time. Strong performances from Sarah Snook and Ethan Hawke, and an intriguing mind-bending time-travel concept, but I am convinced the film doesn't make sense - and does a poor job of making it's dual strands relevant to one another. And then it somewhat unconvincingly fuses them. Relies on big twists, and unnecessary convolution, to mask a deceptively thin story. ★★1/2

Weekly Recommendation: I don't know why, but nothing really excites me about this week. The two I have seen (Locke and Predestination) didn't blow me away, and neither Felony nor Magic in the Moonlight (which looked, immediately, like 'Bad Woody Allen') have attracted much enthusiasm. If I see something this week it will be Felony, because of the cast. Locke has been very well received - it screened in the Sydney Film Festival Official Competition - and for its concept alone it shouldn't be dismissed.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Spring 2014 Preview - 26 Films to Watch This Season

As we enter into Spring, we leave behind the Blockbuster season and get into some of the smaller indie releases, long delayed foreign language titles and potentially some awards contenders.

I am going to be away for most of September, but I have seen a lot of the films released that month as it is. I can highly recommend Boyhood, What We Do In The Shadows, Night Moves, The Immigrant, Jodorowsky's Dune and The Skeleton Twins. 

But before I list the 26 films I suggest keeping an eye out for, here's a recap of the films I viewed over the last three months.

Great (4.5/5) - Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Snowpiercer

Good (3.5/4) - Edge of Tomorrow, Omar, How To Train Your Dragon 2, Calvary, Tim's Vermeer, The Lunchbox, Charlie's Country, Venus in Fur, All this Mayhem, Still Life, The Selfish Giant, These Final Hours, Lucy, Guardians of the Galaxy, Begin Again, Bethlehem, 20,000 Days on Earth

Okay (2.5/3) - The Rover, Frank, The Keeper of Lost Causes, The 100-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared, Locke, Predestination

Awful (1/2) - 22 Jump Street, Palo Alto

The Grandmaster (September 4)

Boyhood (September 4)

What We Do In The Shadows (September 4)

Night Moves (September 11)

The Immigrant (September 11)

The Boxtrolls (September 18)

Jodorowsky's Dune (September 18)

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (September 18)

In Bloom (September 25)

The Skeleton Twins (September 25)

Monday, August 18, 2014

New Releases (21/08/14)

In cinemas this week: The Inbetweeners 2, 20,000 Days on Earth, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared, Earth To Echo and Deepsea Challenge 3D.

The Inbetweeners 2 - Neil, Will and Simon receive an invite from Jay to join him in Australia whilst on his gap year, who promises them it's ''the sex capital of the world''. With their lives now rather dull compared to their hedonistic school days and legendary lads holiday, it's an offer they can't refuse. Once again, they put growing up temporarily on-hold, and embark on a backpacking holiday of a lifetime. Will soon finds himself battling with the lads to do something cultural, whilst they focus their attention on drinking, girls, and annoying fellow travelers. Can I do another round with these lads? Nah.

20, 000 Days on Earth - Drama and reality combine in a fictitious 24 hours in the life of musician and international cultural icon, Nick Cave. With startlingly frank insights and an intimate portrayal of the artistic process, the film examines what makes us who we are, and celebrates the transformative power of the creative spirit. A conceptually stunning film, we join musician, novelist and screenwriter Nick Cave for his 20,000th day on earth. Wonderfully photographed and edited, this is a philosophical study of Cave’s life and career through several inventive approaches. The archive-set reflection was fascinating, Cave’s narration a window into his creative soul, his discussion with a psychoanalyst about his childhood and relationship with his father powerfully insightful. Testimony from Ray Winstone, Warren Ellis and Kylie Minogue are cleverly incorporated too, and the musical performances (studio recordings and live shows) are chillingly good. This is a showcase of technical invention, and I felt encapsulated in the incorporation of media. Thematically rich – especially regarding the importance of memory, and how it influences art and an artist’s desire to transform themselves – if a little repetitive in conveying them. I love that the filmmakers, visual artists, used unconventional documentary methods, blending personal truths through a staged structure. I can’t call myself a Cave fan, though I do admire what I have been exposed to, but I found this a transcendent experience. ★★

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared - Based on the internationally best-selling novel by Jonas Jonasson, the unlikely story of a 100-year-old man who decides it's not too late to start over. For most people it would be the adventure of a lifetime, but Allan Karlsson's unexpected journey is not his first. For a century he's made the world uncertain, and now he is on the loose again.

Earth to Echo - Tuck, Munch and Alex are a trio of inseparable friends whose lives are about to change. Their neighborhood is being destroyed by a highway construction project that is forcing their families to move away. But just two days before they must part ways, the boys begin receiving a strange series of signals on their phones. Convinced something bigger is going on, they team up with another school friend, Emma, and set out to look for the source of their phone signals. What they discover is something beyond their wildest imaginations: a small alien who has become stranded on Earth. In need of their help, the four friends come together to protect the alien and help him find his way home. This journey, full of wonder and adventure, is their story, and their secret.

Deepsea Challenge 3D - As a boy, filmmaker James Cameron dreamed of a journey to the deepest part of the ocean. This film is the dramatic fulfillment of that dream. It chronicles Cameron's solo dive to the depths of the Mariana Trench-nearly seven miles beneath the ocean's surface-piloting a submersible he designed himself. The risks were astounding. The footage is breathtaking. This is a celebration of science, courage, and extraordinary human aspiration.

Weekly Recommendation: I wholeheartedly endorse 20,000 Days on Earth. The best film so far released in August. The 100-Year-Old Man is pretty loopy. Despite feeling a bit 'throw everything at an audience and see what sticks' Felix Herngren's mad, unpredictable adaptation of Jonas Jonasson's novel remains entertaining throughout. Can I do another round with the Inbetweeners lads? Nah.