Tuesday, August 27, 2013

New Releases (29/08/13)

In cinemas this week: Stoker, The Rocket, The Best Offer, You're Next, Red 2 and Jobs. 

A mixed bag, for sure, but the first three mentioned make it one of the year's strongest weeks. 

Stoker - Stoker is a wonderfully directed gripping psychological thriller and the first English-language film by the great South Korean master Park Chan-Wook (Joint Security Area, Oldboy). Written for the screen by Wentworth Miller (best known as the star of Prison Break), it tells a macabre coming-of-age tale about family dysfunction and human depravity, within the mould of an atmospheric gothic horror. Featuring fantastic performances from Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode, its many chilling twists and turns effectively serve the formal brilliance of director Park’s vision. On the day of her 18th birthday introvert misfit India Stoker (Wasikowska) learns that her beloved father (Dermot Mulroney) has died in a car accident. Estranged from her mother, Evelyn (Kidman), she becomes even more cold and withdrawn than usual in her grief. When her father’s charismatic brother Charlie (Goode), a man India has never known, comes to visit and decides to stay to help around the place, she is immediately suspicious of him. At a time when she is dealing with not only grief but existential angst, seclusion and her overbearing mother, the arrival of this stranger puts her at great unease. What secrets does he harbour? What is his fascination with her and why is she so drawn to him?

The Rocket - The story, set in Laos, follows Ahlo (Disamoe), a ten-year old boy whose family are forced to relocate after an Australian energy company announces the construction of a dam set to flood their area. Considered bad luck in the traditions of the family as he is delivered into the world preceding a stillborn twin, Ahlo finds himself the blame for the string of misfortunes that fall upon the family. After a tragic accident and the forging of a friendship with a young girl, Kia (Loungnam Kaosainam), and her outcast uncle, Purple (Thep Phongam), Ahlo’s father (Sumrit Warin) begins to believe that the prophecy is true. Ahlo must prove his worth to his family as they come to terms with the economic change that threaten their livelihood, with their future reliant on the most unlikely of events. In this wonderful film the realities are grim, but stemming from the child’s innocence, courage and his intoxicating sense of hope, it is brimming with tender, heartfelt moments. Winner of the Audience Award at the Sydney Film Festival it also won Best Narrative Feature, Audience Award and Best Actor at the TriBeCa Fil Festival.

The Best Offer - Virgil Oldman (Geoffrey Rush) is a cultured, eccentric and solitary man whose reluctance to engage with women is matched only by the obsessive nature with which he practices as the managing director of a leading auction house and as an evaluator of high-end art and antiques. When the neurotic and short-tempered Virgil receives a call from a mysterious young heiress named Claire Ibbotson (Dutch youngster Sylvia Hoeks), a request to evaluate the paintings and antiques cluttering her sprawling villa, he finds his strict rules aren’t adhered to. Much to his frustration Claire at first refuses to meet him in person, but later reveals that she must remain locked away because of a long-suffering illness. Virgil becomes doubly fascinated by what he finds in the house – including an 18th Century talking automaton that he enlists his friend Robert (a charming Jim Sturgess), a mechanical genius, to assemble and repair – but also the identity of Claire, a woman who may for the first time have captured his heart. The Best Offer, the latest feature from Academy Award-winning director Guiseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso), is a classy and atmospheric thriller with many haunting Hitchcock-esque qualities. I sat down knowing nothing about the film and within minutes I was captivated.

You're Next - During the Davison family reunion to mark the 35th wedding anniversary of parents Aubrey and Paul (Barbara Crampton and Rob Moran), men wearing animal masks and equipped with guns, crossbows and axes invade their mansion home and begin brutally preying on the hapless guests, including the couple’s four children and respective partners. Erin (Sharni Vinson), the girlfriend of son Crispian (AJ Bowen), fronts their retaliation, revealing she is the best equipped to protect the rest of the family against their sadistic, unrelenting foes. Vinson is a memorable horror villain and the film’s twist is a surprise, admittedly, but even when the whole premise is explained and a peculiar plot hole is filled in, it remained unsatisfying. Amongst a vocal and entertained crowd, I just didn't get a kick out this home invasion slasher.

Red 2 - In the high-octane action-comedy sequel to the worldwide sleeper hit, retired black-ops CIA agent Frank Moses reunites his unlikely team of elite operatives for a global quest to track down a missing portable nuclear device. To succeed, they'll need to survive an army of relentless assassins, ruthless terrorists and power-crazed government officials, all eager to get their hands on the next-generation weapon. The mission takes Frank and his motley crew to Paris, London and Moscow. Outgunned and outmanned, they have only their cunning wits, their old-school skills, and each other to rely on as they try to save the world.

Jobs - It only takes one person to start a revolution. The extraordinary story of Steve Jobs, the original innovator and ground-breaking entrepreneur who let nothing stand in the way of greatness. The film tells the epic and turbulent story of Jobs as he blazed a trail that changed technology - and the world - forever. Ashton Kutcher stars as Jobs. The reviews, less than enthusiastic. 

Weekly recommendation: I am in the minority when it comes to You're Next. I found it nasty. Red 2 is mediocre. The veteran cast have fun - even if Willis phones it in big time - but the globe hopping plot is familiar, the action repetitive, the laughs awkwardly absent. RUN to catch Stoker, The Rocket and The Best Offer. They are amongst the year's best. 


  1. Replies
    1. I have to see Stoker again and as much as I enjoyed it, I would put it below The Rocket and The Best Offer this week, which says how strong I think they are.