Saturday, March 31, 2012

Paradise Lost: The Story of the West Memphis 3

This will be simultaneously a review of the three extraordinary documentaries, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996), Paradise Lost: Revelations (2000) and Paradise Lost: Purgatory (2011), directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, and my personal opinions on what is revealed about the case of the West Memphis 3 and the profound effect that this baffling, maddening and tragic case personally has had on me. While I want to examine the success of each film, I think it is hard to ignore the emotional impact created by this case, and in extension these groundbreaking documentaries.

The first film in the series, released in 1996, was Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills. The film is an extraordinary achievement in objective documentary filmmaking, as Berlinger and Sinofsky interview numerous people connected with the case, including the parents of both the victims and the accused, members of the West Memphis Police Department involved in the investigation and the judge and most of the attorneys and legal counsel involved in the trial.

The film opens with some amateur footage (likely not taken by the documentarians) of the crime scene – and we learn that the naked and hogtied bodies of three 8 year-old boys have been discovered in a ditch in a wooded area of West Memphis, known as the ‘Robin Hood Hills’. The three victims were Christopher Byers, Michael Moore and Stevie Branch – with Christopher Byers’ discovered with his penis severed off. Approximately a month after investigations commence (and this information is revealed in Purgatory and was not disclosed in the first two installments) three teenage boys, Jessie Misskelley Jr., Jason Baldwin and Damien Echols were arrested on suspicion and eventually put on trial for the crimes.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Nominations Announced for 2011 FCCA Awards

Nominations were announced yesterday for the annual Film Critic Circle of Australia (FCCA) Awards for Australian Film, for the films of 2011. The Awards, supported by major sponsor FOXTEL, will be presented on Tuesday April 10 at a ceremony at the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) theatre. This information comes courtesy of the FCCA.

Films in contention for Best Film are Burning Man, The Eye of the Storm, The Hunter, Oranges and Sunshine and Snowtown. Jonathan Teplitzky's Burning Man topped the nominations count with nominations in ten of the eleven categories. Daniel Nettheim's The Hunter and Justin Kurzel's Snowtown received eight nominations, while Fred Schepisi's The Eye of the Storm received seven.

FCCA President Rod Quinn said “The nominations this year reflect the huge diversity in Australian filmmaking – from the sophisticated adaptation of an intricate Patrick White novel to the hugely successful story of a lovable dog; from a complex thriller with a big Hollywood star to the extraordinary true story of murder in the suburbs with a primarily unknown cast. This was a banner year for Australian film and we at the Film Critics Circle of Australia are proud to celebrate that."

The Film Critics Circle of Australia is the national body of professional film critics in Australia whose aims are to promote excellent and integrity in the art of film criticism and support the advancement of Australian and international film culture. The FCCA is a cultural, non-profit organisation and a member of FIPRESCI - the international body of critics and journalists. The FCCA recognises outstanding achievement in Australian film through the FCCA annual awards. Australian films eligible for the FCCA awards are those which have had a theatrical or public screening between January and December 2011.

Full List of Nominees (after the jump):

Thursday, March 29, 2012

New Release Review: Wrath of the Titans (Jonathan Liebesman, 2012)

First and foremost, I didn’t think a big-budget film with such an endless array of action set pieces and visual spectacle could be as boring as Clash of the Titans, which was one of the worst films released in 2009, and probably still the worst post-conversion to 3D to date. That film, which had Sam Worthington try and pull off an American accent, fail, and then ultimately just give up, Liam Neeson cocooned in a cloak of blinding light, and one of the most episodic and dull screenplays in existence, had to be bettered. It was bettered in Wrath of the Titans, but only just. Jonathan Liebesman (Battle L.A) is the dubious selection to helm this sequel, and though the visual effects are vastly improved, the viewer’s investment here is severely hampered by the script, and Wrath of the Titans, like its predecessor, has an atrocious one.

The film picks up about a decade after Perseus’ (Worthington) now legendary defeat of the Kraken, and rather than take advantage of his lineage, he has decided to live the quiet life of a fisherman, and take care of his 10-year-old son, Helius. Weakened by humanity’s devotion to the Gods, they are losing control of the imprisoned Titans led by Kronos: the powerful father of Zeus (Liam Neeson), Hades (Ralph Fiennes), and Poseidon (Danny Huston), who they had overthrown and banished to Tartarus, a dungeon buried deep within the Underworld.

Hades and Ares (Edgar Ramirez), Poseidon’s son, make a deal with Kronos to capture and imprison Zeus, and by draining his power enhance the strength of the Titans, who are then unleashed on the unsuspecting world. Perseus cannot ignore his father’s need for his help, rounding up a band of cohorts including Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike), Agenor (Toby Kebbell), Poseidon’s demigod son, and Hephaestus (Bill Nighy), a fallen God who designed Tartarus, in a desperate attempt to save mankind.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New Release Review: Le Havre (Aki Kaurismaki, 2011)

Le Havre is an odd film, and feels like it has been pulled out of a completely different era. It is certainly different from most films you will see released these days, anyway. It is gentle and whimsical - an amiable and gracious character study that proficiently examines all of humanity’s benevolent considerations to one another. The simple story chronicles the righteous path of a unique Le Havre citizen, who aids another who is in desperate need of assistance.

Le Havre is written and directed by Aki Kaurismaki, a renowned Finnish filmmaker who won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival for his 2002 film, A Man Without A Past. Le Havre premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival where it received the FIPRESCI Prize.

Once a bohemian and an author whose career never took off, Marcel Marx (Andre Wilms) has relocated to the port town of Le Havre. Despite his age, he is a humble man disinterested in remaining idle, but takes pride in providing for his wife, Arletty (Kati Outlinen). He has a simple profession - as a shoe-shiner – has a group of close friends and acquaintances, and fills in his time by walking his dog, and visiting his local pub for a glass of wine.

When his wife falls ill and is hospitalised and an underage illegail immigrant, Idrissa (Blondin Miguel), wanted by the local detective Monet (Jean-Pierre Darroussin), crosses his path, he decides to help the boy find a way to London where his mother had previously relocated. He at first brings the boy a sandwich and water and then decides to hide him from the authorities in his home. Reciprocating Marcel’s generosity, Idrissa prepares dinner and completes chores, while Marcel, enlisting the help of the friendly townsfolk, searches for information on the boy’s family, and tries to come up with the funds necessary to pay for his immigration to London.

Classic Throwback: Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)

I watched Night of the Hunter as part of my 2012 Blind Spot Series. Here is a quick overview of my thoughts.

The Night of the Hunter, directed by Charles Laughton in what is considered to be one of the greatest films ever made by a first-time director (it is hard to top Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane), is a sinister blend of Gothic horror, macabre fairy tale and film noir.

Ben Harper (Peter Graves) is in prison awaiting execution for murder. His cellmate, Reverend Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum), tries unsuccessfully to persuade him to reveal where he stashed the $10, 000 dollars he pulled from the crime. Overhearing Harper in his sleep mention his children, and convinced that it must be stashed somewhere at Ben’s home, he makes his way there upon release. Evidently a madman, he utilizes his oily charm to seduce Ben’s newly widowed wife, Willa (Shelley Winters). He marries her in the hopes that he will some day learn about the money – not out of love – and he soon makes his intentions clear by continually interrogating Willa and her two young children, John and Pearl, about the whereabouts.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New Release Review: Mirror Mirror (Tarsem Singh, 2012)

Tarsem Singh (The Fall, Immortals) gets his chips down first in the battle of the Snow White reboots released in cinemas this year. With Snow White and the Hunstsman, which actually looks pretty good, arriving later this year, there has been plenty of speculation as to whether campy comedy, or dark thrills will be better received by audiences. Mirror Mirror didn’t promise much considering the promotional material, and I now can declare, the modernisation of the 1812 Grimm fairytale has little to praise. Technically over-indulgent, poorly cast, embarrassingly unfunny, and far too proud of itself, Mirror Mirror might please some youngsters – and fans of the awful spoof series' that have plagued cinemas for a decade – but what about grown-ups?

Firstly, why was it even called Mirror Mirror? Oh, who cares.

Snow White (Lily Colins) has spent most of childhood imprisoned in the castle with her evil stepmother, The Queen (Julia Roberts), after her loving father passes away. The Queen has ruled with malice, sending most of the residents in her realm into poverty, and continues to demand taxes to fund her lavish social gatherings. Snow, having just turned 18, and the rightful heir to the throne, is urged to see how the people are living, and is appalled how the realm has fallen into disrepute. Banished to the woods and ordered to be killed, she manages to escape and is taken in by a merry band of Dwarves. Together they start an uprising.

At the same time, The Queen is trying to woo Andrew Alcott (Armie Hammer), a wealthy Prince from a neighbouring Kingdom, to appease her dire financial situation. The problem: on the road to the Queen's castle, he meets Snow White and has become infatuated. The Queen will stop at nothing to prove to Alcott that she is the fairest, but Snow, fueled by her enthusiastic cohorts, is determined to both win her Prince, who has also captured her heart, and take back the throne.

Monday, March 26, 2012

New Releases (29/03/12)

There are five new releases hitting cinemas across Australia on Thursday March 29th. Roadshow have two big films opening - Tarsem Singh's Mirror Mirror, and the sequel to the 2009 blockbuster hit, Clash of the Titans (which I crowned my worst film of 2009), Wrath of the Titans. The Lorax, the animated adaptation of the classic Dr. Seuss story, A Dangerous Method, David Cronenberg's examination of the professional relationship between Freud and Jung, and the critically acclaimed Finnish comedy/drama, Le Havre.

Wrath of the Titans - A decade after his heroic defeat of the monstrous Kraken, Perseus - the demigod of Zeus - is attempting to live a quieter life as a village fisherman and the sole parent to his 10-year-old son, Helius. Meanwhile, a struggle for supremacy rages between the Gods and the Titans. Dangerously weakened by humanity's lack of devotion, the gods are losing control of the imprisoned Titans and their ferocious leader, Kronos, father of the long-ruling Zeus, Hades and Poseidon. Persues cannot ignore his true calling when Hades, along with Zeus' godly son, Ares (Edgar Ramirez), switch loyalty and make a deal with Kronos to capture Zeus. This sequel is directed by Jonathan Liebesman (Battle L.A). Oh dear.

Mirror Mirror - One of the most beloved stories of all time is coming to life in this fresh retelling of the Snow White legend. Mirror Mirror features breakout star Lily Collins as Snow White, a princess in exile, and Julia Roberts as the evil Queen who ruthlessly rules her kingdom. Seven courageous rebel dwarfs join forces with Snow White as she fights to reclaim her birthright and win her prince in this comedy filled with jealousy, romance, and betrayal that will capture the hearts and imaginations of audiences. The film also stars Armie Hammer as the Prince and Nathan Lane as the hapless and bumbling servant to the Queen. If you have seen one of the near-unwatchable trailers for this film you will know that it looks like a disaster. Tarsem is skilled in the visual department, but the humour looks to miss the mark far to often. Oddly, early reports have been positive. Check out the trailer (below) and my review of the film (online tomorrow) to aid with your decision.

The Lorax - The 3D-CGI feature Dr. Seuss' The Lorax is an adaptation of Dr Seuss' classic tale of a forest creature who shares the enduring power of hope. The animated feature follows the journey of a boy as he searches for the one thing that will enable him to win the affection of the girl of his dreams. To find it he must discover the story of the Lorax, the grumpy yet charming creature who fights to protect his world.

Le Havre - In this warmhearted portrait of the French harbor city that gives the film its name, fate throws young African refugee Idrissa (Blondin Miguel) into the path of Marcel Marx (Andre Wilms), a well-spoken bohemian who works as a shoeshiner. With innate optimism and the unwavering support of his community, Marcel stands up to officials doggedly pursuing the boy for deportation. A political fairy tale that exists somewhere between the reality of contemporary France and the classic cinema of Jean-Pierre Melville and Marcel Carne, Le Havre is a charming, deadpan delight. Check out the trailer (below).

A Dangerous Method - Seduced by the challenge of an impossible case, the driven Dr. Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) takes the unbalanced yet beautiful Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) as his patient in A Dangerous Method. Jung's weapon is the method of his master, the renowned Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen). A Dangerous Method hit U.S screens months ago, and while Knightley's performance has met mixed reactions, the general consensus is that this lacks the energy of Cronenberg's best films. Dialogue heavy, while certainly thought-provoking and offering up a great cast, but ultimately a bland endeavour.

Weekly Recommendation: Le Havre feels like it has escaped from a past era of filmmaking. It is a very odd film, but one that will be a delight for many I am sure. A Dangerous Method might be exclusively for Cronenberg fans and viewers both with an interest in psychoanalysis and who can stand Keira Knightley on screen. The Lorax and Mirror Mirror are in time for the holidays, and will keep families entertained. I wouldn't rush to see any of these however. The Raid is still playing, however. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Review: The Yellow Sea (Na Hong-Jin, 2011)

The Yellow Sea is a Korean action-thriller written and directed by Na Hong-Jin (The Chaser), which has screened in the Un Certain Regard at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, and at the Fantastic Asian Film Festival (FAFF) in Melbourne last year. I was lucky to attend a Sydney Premiere session of the film the other night at the Korean Cultural Office as part of their fantastic X-treme Korea program.

In Yabian, Korean Autonomous Prefecture, a town on the China-Russia-North Korea border, Cu-Nam (Ha Jung-woo), a Joseonjok (what I took to be a derogatory term to describe Chinese people of Korean descent) lives day to day as a taxi driver. He frequents at seedy gambling rackets, accumulating a substantial mah-jong debt, and drinks frequently. His wife has recently left him to work in South Korea. Fearing she is having an affair, and disturbed by her lack of contact, he agrees to a job that will take him illegally across the border into South Korea with an opportunity to find her, but also provide a means to appease his debts. The job: the assassination of a businessman.

He is given expenses, and has just 10 days to complete the job before his paid transportation back to China leaves. He divides his time between scoping out the target and searching for his wife, distracted by her further disappearance – but when he attempts the hit, his careful plans go horribly wrong and he finds himself on the run not just from the police, but the entire South Korean Mafia, and the Chinese contact, Myung-Ga (Yun Seok Kim), who supplied the mission. The way these various parties cross paths makes for an intense cat-and-mouse thriller, which transforms Cu-Nam into a desperate fugitive fighting to stay alive and uncover who is responsible.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Line-up and Dates Announced for 2012 Audi Festival of German Films

Courtesy of Ned & Co. the official dates and lineup for the 11th annual Audi Festival of German Film are now available. This year is once again a spectacular collection of films highlighting the rich diversity of Germany’s contemporary film industry.

Under the guidance of the Festival’s new director, Dr. Arpad Sölter, and presented by the Goethe Institut in association with German Films, the 2012 outing, once again proudly sponsored by Audi, Europe’s leading producer of exquisite automobiles, will screen 37 of the most compelling features and documentaries to emerge from Germany and Switzerland over the past year. The 2012 line-up will also include a selection of shorts and a retrospective on the work of famed German actor/director Leander Haußman (Hotel Lux, Robert Zimmerman is Tangled up in Love, Sun Alley), who will be a guest of this year’s event.

Screening from 18 April until early May, the 2012 Festival will offer varied programmes. The Sydney season will commence with a screening of Hotel Lux, a satire set in the late 1930s about an apolitical comedian/cabaret actor who finds himself stranded in a Moscow hotel, where he is forced to pose as Hitler’s personal astrologer, whilst in Melbourne, Summer Window, a romance that sees its protagonist transported to her past, will open the Festival. Brisbane’s season will open with Cracks in the Shell, a challenging psychological tale about a young actress faced with a powerful self-revelation, whilst Adelaide and Perth’s season will be launched by Westwind, the story of twin sisters from East Germany whose bond is tested when they meet two young men from Hamburg during a 1988 summer camp.

Additional highlights of the 2012 Festival programme include:

4 Days in May / 4 Tage im Mai (Screening all cities)
Four days before the end of the Second World War in Germany. A Soviet Captain and his patrol have occupied an orphanage by the sea; a German army unit is camped on the beach; a secret love affair blooms against all odds. Everyone is weary of fighting; except for the 13-year-old orphan Peter who wants to prove he's a hero and tries with all his cunning and power to instigate trouble between the opposing troops.

Color of the Ocean / Die Farbe des Ozeans
(Screening all cities except Canberra)
A German tourist on the Cayman Islands discovers a group of African refugees undergoing detention by the local police. Her concern with their plight leads her to help one of the refugees and his young son. However, will this humanitarian act lead to a positive result?

Combat Girls / Kriegerin
(Screening Sydney & Melbourne)
Set in a small town in East Germany, Combat Girls offers a nightmarish depiction of Neo-Nazism from a uniquely female perspective through the eyes of its central character, Marisa, a 20 year-old skinhead who blames others for her country’s decline.

If Not Us, Who / Wer Wenn Nicht Wir
(Screening all cities)
The political and social events that happened in the 1960s in West Germany are brought to the fore in this absorbing drama about the relationship between the rebellious revolutionaries Gudrun Ensslin and Bernward Vesper. Gudrun defied authority and was sympathetic to the communist cause, while Bernward, the son of a Nazi writer, fought against his difficult heritage.

Kaddish for a Friend / Kaddisch für einen Freund
 (Screening Sydney, Melbourne & Adelaide)
In a tough, Berlin suburb an elderly Jewish war veteran resists being placed in a retirement home, preferring to retain his independence.  However, when a neighbouring Muslim teenager ransacks his apartment, what will be the consequences?  Will the old man and the boy’s family ever forge a peaceful co-existence?

Mahler on the Couch / Mahler auf der Couch
(Screening all cities except Perth)
Based on some factual evidence, this film recounts the 1910 meeting of composer Gustav Mahler and Sigmund Freud, when Mahler, on discovering that his wife Alma was having an affair with architect Walter Gropius, was driven to seek Freud’s help in coming to terms with the deception.

Men in the City 2 / Männerherzen 2
(Screening Sydney & Melbourne)
The sequel to the 2010 Festival comic hit, Men in the City, this story reunites the ‘men’ placing them in even more humorous situations whilst simultaneously sympathizing with their relationships and work dramas.

Rodicas / Rodicas
(Screening Sydney & Melbourne)
Fresh from the 62nd Berlinale, this incisive documentary, set in present-day Sydney, follows two elderly Rumanian-Jewish women who live their daily lives with a strong sense of friendship and shared experiences.  Directed by Alice Guia, who is also a grand-daughter of one of the two protagonists,

(Screening all cities except Canberra)
In an isolated Swiss village, locals discover the body of a priest while a young woman arrives seeking retribution for past misdeeds. This first, unsettling horror film from Switzerland involves the creation of a monster, the invoking of the supernatural, and the way the past reconciles with the present.

Stopped on Track / Halt auf freier Strecke
(Screening all cities)
This intimate film follows Frank (Milan Peschel) who is diagnosed with a brain tumour.  Depicted in a semi-documentary style, we observe the process by which he chooses to live the remainder of his life, from the way that his family copes, to the participation of actual health professionals. The issues of mortality and dealing with a death sentence are explored via scenes that evoke a strong response from both the actors and the audience.

The Good Neighbour / Unter Nachbarn
(Screening Sydney, Melbourne & Adelaide)
In this thriller, a journalist, starting life in a new city, is involved in a hit and run accident, which leads him to become immersed in a psychological game of cat and mouse.

Three / Drei
(Screening all cities except Canberra)
Director Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Perfume) brings us a provocative drama about a married couple whose 20-year relationship is at a crossroads. They respectively each meet a man who is able to satisfy what is lacking in their lives. This man is the same one for both of them, and an unusual ménage a trois ensues.

Festival dates and venues:

SYDNEY 18-30 April - Chauvel Cinema, Palace Norton St.
MELBOURNE 19-30 April - Palace Cinema Como, Kino Cinemas
BRISBANE 19-25 April - Palace Centro Cinema
ADELAIDE 26 April - 1 May - Palace Nova Eastend Cinema
PERTH 3-6 May - Cinema Paradiso
CANBERRA 3-6 May - National Film and Sound Archive

You can find out more information at the Festival Website:  

Friday, March 23, 2012

My 40 Favourite Directors

Here are forty directors (not listed in any order) whose films I have come to admire as my film education has increased, and as a result of my exposure to new and exciting filmmakers. This list stretches from early cinema pioneers like Sergei Eisenstein and Charlie Chaplin to present-day masters like David Fincher and Paul Thomas Anderson - and the skilled auteurs like Robert Bresson, Stanley Kubrick and Ingmar Bergman who were at their peak in between.

To be considered, I had to have seen and immensely enjoyed at least two of their films. I have listed the films from each filmmaker that I have personally seen and can recommend. Come and share your thoughts on these filmmakers.

Sergei Eisenstein

Essential Viewing: Strike (1924), The Battleship Potemkin (1925), Ivan the Terrible Part 1 (1944)

Charlie Chaplin

The Circus (1928), City Lights (1931), Modern Times (1936), The Great Dictator (1940)

Alfred Hitchcock 

Notorious (1946), Strangers on A Train (1951), Rear Window (1954)Vertigo (1958)North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960), The Birds (1963)

Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger

Black Narcissus (1946), The Red Shoes (1948), Peeping Tom (1960)

Billy Wilder

Double Indemnity (1944), The Lost Weekend (1945), Sunset Boulevard (1950), Some Like It Hot (1959), The Apartment (1960)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

New Release Review: The Hunger Games (Gary Ross, 2012)

Based on the first in the trio of Suzanne Collins’ immensely popular science-fiction novels, the highly anticipated cinematic release of The Hunger Games is now upon us. Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Pleasantville) directs the film and co-wrote the screenplay with Suzanne Collins and Billy Ray.

I will start by providing a disclaimer – I have not read any of The Hunger Games novels, but prior to this screening I was aware of their premise. My reaction here is to the film, and only in part a comparison to my slim knowledge about the novels.

After the existing nation of North America is destroyed by catastrophe, Panem, a now heavily divided civilization, has risen from the ruins. Panem is ruled by the wealthy Capitol, a thriving metropolis surrounded by 12 Districts, who are now at the mercy of the Capitol after an unsuccessful uprising over 70 years prior. As a result, their punishment is to select a male and female tribute from their District (children between the ages of 12-18) to take part in an annually televised contest called ‘The Hunger Games’, which takes place within a constructed arena with the designers able to influence the game from a control station. There are hidden cameras located throughout, which broadcast the action. There are 24 contestants – and they must fight to the death until there is a lone surviving victor.

Immediately, we are introduced to 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) on the morning of the reaping for the Games. She is sneaking off outside the borders of District 12 to hunt for her family. Just as effectively as Katniss’ character is set up in these early scenes, the immense poverty of her District is conveyed. They are in desperate times, having never bred a winner of the Games, and as a result never been fulfilled by the spoils of victory.

We are also introduced to Katniss’ friend Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), whose father had died in the same mine as hers several years prior, and her younger sister Primrose (Willow Shields). Later, at the reaping, Primrose is selected to compete, but Katniss, ever protective of her sister (who would surely never survive) volunteers to compete in her place. The male tribute is Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) – and they journey together to the spectacular realm of the Capitol, where they meet a host of colourful characters and prepare for the fight of their lives. They train alongside the other tributes, get dolled up for interviews aired before all of Panem and dine and sleep in style.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New Releases (22/03/12)

There are just three new releases opening in Australian cinemas this week, but it makes for potentially one of the strongest release days since Jan. 12. They are the hugely anticipated action blockbuster, The Hunger Games, an adaptation of the first novel in Suzanne Collins' ridiculously popular novel series, The Raid, which is an Indonesian film, and in short, one of the best action films to grace screens in some time, and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which is for a different audience altogether, but one I am sure they will all wholeheartedly enjoy. I have been lucky enough to see both The Raid and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel so far, and I will also have seen The Hunger Games before its release on Thursday, so check in on Thursday morning (unfortunately it won't be online before then) for my thoughts on the film.

The Hunger Games - Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the evil Capitol of the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games. A twisted punishment for a past uprising and an ongoing government intimidation tactic, The Hunger Games are a nationally televised event in which "Tributes" must fight with one another until one survivor remains. Pitted against highly-trained Tributes who prepared for these Games their entire lives, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts as well as the mentorship of drunken former victor Haymitch Abernathy. Strong early reviews out the U.S should have fans hopeful of a fantastic adaptation.

The Raid - As a rookie member of an elite special-forces team, Rama (Iko Uwais) is instructed to hang back during a covert mission involving the extraction of a brutal crime lord from a rundown fifteen-story apartment block. But when a spotter blows their cover, boss Tama (Ray Sahetapy) offers lifelong sanctuary to every killer, gangster and thief in the building in exchange for their heads. Now Rama must stand in for the team's fallen leader (Joe Taslim) and use every iota of his fighting strength - winding through every floor and every room to complete the mission and escape with his life. Fantastic film. The brutally intense fight sequences start out more as shootouts but later become hand to hand (and knife to machete) skirmishes. Some of it must be seen to be believed. A new pinnacle of action filmmaking.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - Follows a group of British retirees who decide to "outsource" their retirement to less expensive and seemingly exotic India. Enticed by advertisements for the newly restored Marigold Hotel and bolstered with visions of a life of leisure, they arrive to find the palace a shell of its former self. Though the new environment is less luxurious than imagined, they are forever transformed by their shared experiences, discovering that life and love can begin again when you let go of the past.

Weekly Recommendation: I think each of the films will be worth seeing - but it depends on your interests. The Hunger Games could be one of the best blockbusters of the year, and considering the pre-sales, it is going to make a lot of money. The Raid is essential for action junkies and those with strong stomachs. Marigold will draw people purely because of the cast, and though it looks a bit whimsical and sentimental, don't dismiss it, because there are some good laughs and some genuinely moving moments.

Here is a trailer for The Raid, and below is an awesome clip from the film. If you need convincing on whether to see it or not, check it out, though be aware it does contain one of the film's best action sequences. If you have already seen the film, enjoy the carnage all over again.

New Release Review: Haywire (Steven Soderbergh, 2012)

Haywire, the new film from Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven and Contagion), who has been a busy man since announcing his retirement from filmmaking, feels like one of his experimental films – this time tackling the spy thriller/action genre for the first time. The screenplay is taut and lean, but lacklustre in the fact that it is often void of point or coherence, has an unsatisfying conclusion, and is often unable to maintain an audience’s engagement when the screen isn’t occupied by a chase or a fight sequence.

Still, Haywire is a very cool film, and has lots of Soderbergh’s recognisable traits. The non-linear, montage-style narrative structure, informing us how an event came to happen after the fact and the large ensemble cast of A-list Hollywood actors. The clean and inventive digital photography (and Soderbergh shot and edited Haywire himself), with Soderbergh’s usual array of filters, and the funky soundtrack from David Holmes (who also scored the Ocean’s films) greatly enhance the film’s often-stagnant energy. This is a film with plenty of visual style, but unfortunately not much holding the fantastic action sequences together. To a degree, this is forgivable.

Monday, March 19, 2012

New Release Review: The Rum Diary (Bruce Robinson, 2011)

Based on the debut novel of the same name by the late Hunter S. Thompson, The Rum Diary is written and directed by Bruce Robinson (Withnail and I), ending a nineteen-year absence between filmmaking endeavors. While we know there will be drinking, will the film tell a strong enough story to complement the frequently drowned sorrows of Thompson’s intriguing protagonist?

Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp), who we are first introduced to waking up in a trashed hotel room to a vicious hangover, has recently traveled to the exotic locale of Puerto Rico to write for a local newspaper. He has left the madness of New York City and the politics of the Eisenhower-era America he so despises in search of the inspiration to complete his unfinished novels, and offer his services to the newspaper’s pessimistic but no-nonsense editor, Lotterman (Richard Jenkins).

Arriving in Lotterman’s office for induction sporting sunglasses to mask his bloodshot eyes, he meets Sala (Michael Rispoli), who would later become his housemate and regular rum-drinking partner, and is assigned the horoscope column and instructed to patrol the local bowling alleys for scoops. After bunking up with Sala, and meeting another often-inebriated staff writer at the magazine, Moburg (Giovanni Ribisi), he finds himself drawn to the sweaty atmosphere of the island, which has its own share of civil unrest.

Kemp’s distractions come at first from the beautiful Chenault (Amber Heard), and later from her fiancé, Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart), an American entrepreneur locked in an unsavoury real-estate scheme to utilize the island paradise for capitalist gain. He invites Kemp on board to favourably document the scheme, and influenced by Heard’s substantial hotness and presence, Kemp finds himself working with the very bastards he despises so much.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Monday Links (19/03/12)

Recapping what I have seen this week, and it has been a busy week, I have posted reviews of 21 Jump Street, which opened March 15, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and The Raid, which arrive in cinemas this week. Today I will be checking out both The Rum Diary and Haywire, and later in the week, The Hunger Games.

Here are some links for you this week:

Jose @ Movies Kick Ass delves into some of the complex themes present in David Fincher's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. 

Alex @ And So It Begins gives Undefeated, the Oscar winner for Best Documentary Feature, an A+.

Kevyn Knox @ Anomalous Material shares 10 Little Known Movies You Need to See Now.  

Diana @ Aziza's Picks is working through a Coen Bros. mini marathon. She reviews Fargo, which is arguably their best work.

Stevee @ Cinematic Paradox catches up with Take Shelter. It also became one of her favourites from 2011.

Tom Clift has some positive things to say about Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Check out his review @ Cut Print Review. 

Brian J. Roan @ Dear Film reviews The Kid With A Bike and chats with Andrew @ A Constant Visual Feast and Dan @ Fogs' Movie Reviews about Silent House on his new Podcast, Outside the Envelope

Anna @ Defiant Success reviews Robert Bresson's Pickpocket. A masterpiece.

Sam @ Duke and the Movies has started a Tuesday Inquisition segment. This week he asks his readers about Buddy Cop Films

Max @ Impassioned Cinema takes a look at Francis Ford Coppola's classic, Apocalypse Now

The Kid in the Front Row chats with the director of Superbad and Paul, Greg Mottola

A group of Aussie online film journalists - Cameron Williams, Richard Gray, Matt Pejkovic, Jessica Chandra and Jorge Duran - were invited to chat with the two stars of 21 Jump Street a few weeks back. You can read the transcript @ Cam's site, Popcorn Junkie.

Tyler @ Southern Vision finally watched A Separation.  

Simon Columb @ Screen Insight writes a great piece on Francois Truffaut's The 400 Blows.

That's all folks. Hope you have a great week. What did you watch over the weekend?

Clips: A Dangerous Method

Courtesy of Way to Blue, here are a pair of clips from David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method, which is hitting Australian cinemas on March 29.

Seduced by the challenge of an impossible case, the driven Dr. Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) takes the unbalanced yet beautiful Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) as his patient. Jung's method is the weapon of his master, Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen).

13 Hours

I'm Dr Jung

New Trailer: Prometheus

There is a extremely intense new trailer for Ridley Scott's highly anticipated science-fiction blockbuster, Prometheus, now available to watch online, released through Twentieth Century Fox. It looks amazing - and features a cast including Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba and Guy Pierce.

It opens worldwide June 8th. Here is the trailer. Watch it loud.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Upcoming Release Review: The Raid (Gareth Evans, 2012)

The Raid is scheduled for a release in Australian cinemas on March 22.

If you are a die-hard action fan, get an adrenalin rush from loud, violent shoot-em-ups and extremely intense, expertly choreographed hand-to-hand skirmishes (or machete-to-knife as it is on some occasions), displaying an incredible array of martial arts maneuvers, and aren’t squeamish, then The Raid is a film you can’t miss. If this isn't you, perhaps it is a good idea to steer clear of The Raid. It is rather violent. Nevertheless, it is impossible to dismiss the film as anything but a new pinnacle of the action genre. The soon-to-be-infamous Indonesian film from Welsh director Gareth Evans, who also wrote and edited, will raise the heart rate, cause your draw to drop in awe and seriously blow your mind. The Raid is being hailed as one of the best action films to hit cinemas in years, and this is the truth. I can’t think of a film that contains action so hard-hitting and convincing, nor one so intelligently filmed.

Deep in the heart of Jakarta’s slums lies an impenetrable derelict apartment building, which has become a safe house and fortress from some of the world’s most dangerous killers, drug lords and gangsters. Cloaked under the cover of pre-dawn darkness, a squad of elite operatives is tasked with raiding the block and take down the notorious ruler, Tama (Ray Sahetaby), who runs the show from the 15th floor. When news of the raid is brought to his attention by spotters on the lower floors, the power is cut, the exits are sealed, and the hostile and bloodthirsty tenants are given free reign to take out the dwindling squad. Rookie agent Rama (Iko Uwais), takes it upon himself to help his wounded colleague find safety, and then tries to rendezvous with the unit chief, who has been separated. Joining up with a couple of unlikely allies, he attempts to both complete the mission and escape the building, as waves of the world’s worst criminals, including Tama’s seemingly indestructible bodyguard Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian), bear down on him.

New Release Review: 21 Jump Street (Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, 2012)

21 Jump Street takes its inspiration from the popular 80's television series of the same name, which made a star of Johnny Depp. Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs) and written by Jonah Hill and Michael Bacall, 21 Jump Street, while retaining the action, shifts away from the more serious tone of the television show and is more focused on the comedy, incorporating low-brow teen humour with plenty of pop culture references. Thankfully, there is enough energy provided by the two leads and several great sequences that tilt this inconsistent film in favour of the hits over the misses.

21 Jump Street is centered on Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill, in his first role since he cut the figure), who knew one another in high school, but only became close friends after meeting in Police College. Schmidt helps Jenko to pass his exams, while undergoing an intensive Jenko training regime to up his own personal fitness and toughness. After passing their exams and now operating as fully-fledged law enforcers, they badly botch an on-the-fly arrest attempt, which brought them out of their dull routine of fetching frisbees from the lake and wasting time, but results in their reassignment to 21 Jump Street, an undercover unit run out of an abandoned church featuring several youthful looking cops assigned to crack down on youth crime.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Upcoming Release Review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (John Madden, 2012)

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is scheduled for an Australian release on March 22.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a delightfully charming British comedy/drama directed by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love), written by Ol Parker and starring a stellar cast of British veteran actors. The film’s central plot follows the life of a group of British retirees staying in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a hotel/retirement home with character situated in India.

This group of British retirees, for various reasons, have experienced health, financial and existential difficulties following their retirement, and seeking a new lease on life are attracted by the enticing advertisements of the newly restored Marigold Hotel and the inexpensive and exotic locale of India. When Evelyn (Judi Dench), a newly widowed housewife who must sell her home to repay her husband’s debts, Douglas and Jean (Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton), married for 39 years and now unable to afford anything more than retirement bungalows, Graham (Tom Wilkinson), a high court judge who is returning to the country he grew up in, Norman (Ronald Pickup), a life-long womanizer unable to face his own age and always on the look out for a new woman, Madge (Celia Imrie), looking for adventure and a new man after a string of unsuccessful marriages, and Muriel (Maggie Smith), a bitter racist and ex-housekeeper who journeys to India for a hip replacement, turn up at Sonny’s (Dev Patel) hotel, they find it a shadow of its former self. But as they begin to accept Sonny’s honest ambitions to transform the place into the hotel his father once ran, and as they continue to bond with one another, come to terms with the culture of India, face their pasts, make the most of their presents, and consider their futures, they are ultimately all transformed in their own way from the experiences.

New Life For The Dark Tower Adaptation. Ron Howard to direct?

Stephen King's post-apocalyptic epic, The Dark Tower (currently a series of seven volumes), has undergone a troubled journey to adaptation, but Collider reports that there is some new life for the project at Warner Bros. They are close to a deal that would give the go-ahead on the project with Ron Howard to direct at least the first film. Javier Bardem has also been tied to the role of the central protagonist, a gunslinger names Roland Deschain (which I think would work perfectly). After Universal passed on Howard's script last year, screenwriter Akiva Goldsman and producer Brian Grazer threw around the idea of turning the novels into a television series (possibly set up through HBO), but it now looks like production for a feature could begin in early 2013, as Goldman puts the polish on his script.

What are your thoughts on a Dark Tower adaptation and the personnel connected to the project?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

New Releases (15/03/12)

Courtesy of

There are five films hitting cinemas Australia-wide on Thursday March 15. They are 21 Jump Street, The Rum Diary, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Margin Call and The Kid With A Bike.

21 Jump Street - In this action/comedy, Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are more than ready to leave their adolescent problems behind. Joining the police force and the secret Jump Street unitm they use their youthful appearances to go undercover in a local high school. As they trade in their guns and badges for backpacks, Schmidt an Jenko risk their lives to investigate a violent and dangerous drug ring. But they find that high school is nothing like they left it just a few years earlier - and neither expects that they will have to confront the terror and anxiety of being a teenager again and all of the issues they thought they had left behind. Strong early reviews claim the film to be funny and Tatum to be a comedic revelation. I'll be there on Thursday night. If you want to check out an extended NSFW trailer for the film, click here.

The Rum Diary - Based on the debut novel by Hunter S. Thompsomn. Tiring of the noise and madness of New York and the crushing conventions of later Eisenhower-era America, Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp) travels to the pristine island of Peurto Rico to write for a local newspaper, run by downtrodden editor Lotterman (Richard Jenkins). Adopting the rum-soaked life of the island, Paul soon becomes obsessed with Chenault (Amber Heard), the wildly attractive Connecticut-born fiance of Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart), one of a growing number of American entrepreneurs who are determined to convert Peurto Rico into a capitalist paradise in service of the wealthy. When Kemp is recruited by Sanderson to write favourably about his latest unsavoury scheme, the journalist is presented with a choice: to use his words for the corrupt businessmen's financial benefit, or use them to take the bastards down. I believe the plot is a mess, but Depp is great as a drunk, and there is enough fun to recommend. I intend to check it out, so expect a review within the next week.

New Footage From 'The Hunger Games'

The Hunger Games, the hotly anticipated big screen adaptation of Suzanne Collins' best selling novel starring Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson, hits Australian cinemas on March 22, and the United States on March 23. Courtesy of the the film's Youtube Channel, here is a clip from the film:

Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the evil Capitol of the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games. A twisted punishment for a past uprising and an ongoing government intimidation tactic, The Hunger Games are a nationally televised event in which “Tributes” must fight with one another until one survivor remains.

Pitted against highly-trained Tributes who have prepared for these Games their entire lives, Katniss is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts as well as the mentorship of drunken former victor Haymitch Abernathy. If she’s ever to return home to District 12, Katniss must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

The Hunger Games is directed by Gary Ross, with a screenplay by Gary Ross and Suzanne Collins and Billy Ray, and produced by Nina Jacobson’s Color Force in tandem with producer Jon Kilik. Suzanne Collins’ best-selling novel, the first in a trilogy published by Scholastic that has over 23.5 million copies in print in the United States alone, has developed a massive global following. It has spent more than 160 consecutive weeks to date on The New York Times bestseller list since its publication in September 2008, and has also appeared consistently on USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists.    

Monday, March 12, 2012

Alliance Francaise French Film Festival Review: You Will Be My Son (Gilles Legrand, 2012)

You Will Be My Son has made its Australian Premiere at the 2012 Alliance Francaise French Film Festival, and it is gripping human drama that chronicles the tense relationship between a highly demanding father and owner of a prestigious vineyard in Saint-Emilion, Paul de Marseul (Niels Arestrup, excellent), and his son Martin (Lorant Deutsch), who works with him on the estate.

It is the third feature from director and co-writer (with Delphine DiVigan), Gilles Legrand, and displays an acute awareness to the context of the French winegrowing world – the handing down of knowledge and heritage and the maintenance of quality and tradition, ensuring that the business remains in the family - and the complexities of the father/son relationship, especially when it is placed under stress due to individual mean-spiritedness and family business interests. The extremes that Paul is willing to go to preserve the former, while completely ridding himself of a latter, makes for involved, contemplative and often angering viewing.

Martin is ambitious, educated, skilled with figures and technologically sound, and believes he is ready to take over the role of chief wine steward. Paul, however, is dismayed by the prospect of Martin taking over his vineyard, believing he lacks the old-fashioned instinct, a taste palate capable of differentiating between complex wines, the experience or the creativity to lead a harvest and the genuine passion for the role that he feels necessary to ensure the vineyard remains prestigious. He desires a son who is media-friendly and charismatic, and one closer to the son he envisioned to one day continue his legacy, as he had his own father’s.

Monday Links (12/03/12)

Ouch. 30 Mil. Not Good.

Here are some links from the week for you all to peruse:

Steve @ 1001Plus looks at the Costner double of The Untouchables and JFK.

Alex @ And So It Begins Lists 15 Great Movies Under 85 Minutes. Essential reading.

Andrew @ Can't Stop the Movies was in favour of Silent House.

Surprisingly John Carter has been a film that has savagely (at times) divided critics. Dwayne Lennox @ The LennoX Files writes an honest and fair review, weighing up both its strengths and weaknesses.

One film I am yet to see in an Australian cinema this week is Coriolanus. Thomas Caldwell @ Cinema Autopsy shares his thoughts on the film.

Nick Prigge @ Cinema Romantico tells his readers why they should watch Ghosts of Mars instead of John Carter.

Sleep Tight seems to be essential viewing. Colin, who writes at his fantastic site, Pick 'n' Mix Flix is raving about it.

Be sure to tell Andrew @ Encore's World of Film and TV who you think the Director of 2011 was.

Sat @ Cinematic Corner analyses Jason Reitman's Young Adult and reviews one of Cronenberg's coolest films, Videodrome.

Check out Anders' video on How to Make Epic Movie Trailers @ Cut Print Review.

Sam @ Duke and the Movies continues his quest through Stanley Kubrick with his second-to-last film, Full Metal Jacket. 

The Kid in the Front Row imagines the 'The Woman in Black' Script Pitch Meeting. Hilarious.

Front Room Cinema has a fantastic new look.

Corey @ Just Atad asks: Can A Bad Movie Be Worth It For Only One Scene?

If you were in two minds about seeing 21 Jump Street this week, check out Sam McCosh's guest review of the film on Cameron Williams' Popcorn Junkie, before dismissing it.

Tyler @ Southern Vision writes a great piece on what might be my favourite Michael Haneke film, Hidden.

Since watching We Need to Talk About Kevin I have been wanting to see more films by Lynn Ramsay. Jessica @ The Velvet Cafe has reviewed Ratcatcher this week, and I believe it is also excellent.

That's all folks. Hope you all have a great week. What's on the viewing schedule?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Classic Throwback Review: A Man Escaped (Robert Bresson, 1956)

A Man Escaped is the 1956 French film directed by the great Robert Bresson (Pickpocket, Au Hasard Balthazar). It is based on the memoirs of Andre Devigny, a prisoner of war who managed to escape from Fort Montluc prison in Lyon during World War II. The Nazis also imprisoned Bresson, himself a member of the French Resistance. The central protagonist of the film is named Fontaine, and played by Francois Leterrier.

One of the film’s opening shots is of a plaque commemorating 7,000 men who died at Montluc prison at the hands of the Nazi’s – both through natural means, or through execution. Robert Bresson’s extraordinary film, above being a pinnacle in the prison escape genre, it is also a very powerful anti-war film. Fontaine, a member of the French Resistance, seizes an opportunity to escape his captors while being escorted by car to prison. He is eventually apprehended, handcuffed and placed in a cell on the first floor.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

'The Lone Ranger' - First Look Image

Courtesy of Disney, here is a first look image at The Lone Ranger, a Disney/Jerry Bruckheimer Films Production. Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Gore Verbinski, The Lone Ranger tells the story of Tonto (Johnny Depp), a spirit warrior on a personal quest who unintentionally joins forces in a fight for justice with John Reid (Armie Hammer), a lawman who has been transformed into a masked avenger. The Lone Ranger is scheduled for release in Australia in May 2013. What are your thoughts on this project?

Top 10 Films of the 10/20's, 30's and 40's

Earlier this year I posted my Top 10 films from the 50's, 60's and 70's and last November, my Top 10 Films from the 80's, 90's and 00's. I have decided to continue on and take a look at the 1910/20's, 30's and 40's. As I have seen far less films created over these decades, coming up with just ten films was much easier than in previous lists.

Here we go:


Honourable Mentions: Red River (1948), Rome, Open City (1945), Ivan the Terrible: Part 1 (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), Pinnochio (1940)

10. The Lost Weekend (1945)
9. Double Indemnity (1944)
8. The Red Shoes (1948)
7. The Third Man (1949)
6. Notorious (1946)
5. It's A Wonderful Life (1946)
4. Black Narcissus (1946)
3. The Bicycle Thief (1948)
2. Citizen Kane (1941)
1. Casablanca (1942)


10. The Blue Angel (1930)
9. Gone With the Wind (1939)
8. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
7. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
6. La Grande Illusion (1937)
5. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
4. City Lights (1931)
3. Vampyr (1932)
2. M (1931)
1. Modern Times (1936)


10. Pandora's Box (1929)
9. The Birth of a Nation (1915)
8. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919)
7. Metropolis (1927)
6. The Battleship Potemkin (1925)
5. Strike (1924)
4. The General (1927)
3. Nosferatu, A Symphony of Terror (1922)
2. The Man With a Movie Camera (1929)
1. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

Results of Recent Poll: Dario Argento

Thanks to everyone who voted in my recent poll, where I asked readers to select what they thought was Dario Argento's greatest film. Not surprisingly, Suspiria topped the voting, with Deep Red claiming a couple of votes too. The latter is my personal favourite Argento film, but no one can deny the status of Suspiria. 

February was a memorable month because I was able to work through Argento's early classics. If you have yet to experience his filmmaking, and there are still plenty I need to see (Phenomenon and Opera notably), I strongly urge you to seek out his films. I am not sure what the next poll will be yet, but stay turned for more chances to vote.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Revisiting 'Titanic' in 3D

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be invited to the launch of Titanic in 3D at Event Cinemas George Street. The special presentation, which included several sequences from the film (approx 40 minutes of 3D footage), was introduced by the film’s producer, Jon Landau, who also participated in a friendly Q&A session at the conclusion of the presentation.

Landau, who worked closely with director James Cameron on the film’s transition to 3D, declared, “if they were to make Titanic again, it would be in 3D”. Landau also said that Fox were considering the re-release a ‘new release’. Due to this year marking the 100-year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, it was decided that the film would be once again be made available for cinemagoers aided by the newest technology.

Landau jovially discussed the reactions of stars Kate Winslet and Leo DiCaprio to the 3D conversion, revealed the lengthy process of the transition (which took 60 weeks of work and about $18 Million), answered questions about his favourite scene in the film, and how difficult it was to convince the studios to re-release the film. At the time this idea was being pitched, there had been no re-releases. The Lion King and The Phantom Menace are two that have been re-released since.

Landau informed us that there were actually more visual effect shots in Titanic than in Avatar, and the effects have remained exactly the same. In response to the common assumption that 3D is only effective at enhancing action sequences, Landau is adamant that 3D “actually enhances the dramatic sequences more”.

Though I only saw a selection of scenes from the film, it remains an awe-inspiring cinematic experience, and a groundbreaking technical achievement. Having not seen the film for what must be close to a decade (and not on a cinema screen since 1997, when I was still very young), the youth of the two leads (and they were only 18/19 at the time of filming) raised a chuckle, but it does hold up really well.

As for the 3D, it is mostly stunning, save for a few times when the moving shots seemed to be slightly blurry, and with the elimination of the ship’s lighting in the concluding stages, it was difficult to see the actor’s faces. But, the ship’s sinking is still one of the most breathtaking cinematic moments of all time – and it is made even more scary by the addition of the 3D, creating an experience which absorbs the audience so much that it feels as though they are situated on the ship themselves.

Still, for many young people – and pretty much everyone under the age of 20, seeing Titanic on the big screen is something they never would have experienced. On April the 5th there is an opportunity for these people, as well as lifelong fans of the film (and being one of the highest grossing films of all time, there are a lot of fans) to see the film again in the environment of a darkened cinema. Don't miss it.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Alliance Francaise French Film Festival Review: Elles (Malgorzata Szumowska, 2012)

Juliette Binoche stars as Anne, a French Elle investigative journalist and mother of two who is researching for a feature article on student-age prostitution. She lives a lavish bourgeois life; has a beautiful home and a profession she is passionate about. She is struggling to balance her work, her familial duties and her socializing – on the day the film is predominantly set she has to prepare a dinner party for her husband’s boss - with the strain of her most recent project. Her research involves lengthy and revealing conversations with two young women, who are funding their studies and living off the said profession.

The two women are Alicja (Joanna Kulig), a seductive Polish economics student, and Charlotte (Anais Demoustier), a friendly French woman who compares prostitution to smoking – an addiction with material benefits that are hard to give up. Anne is genuinely surprised by the determination of these women, and as she struggles to complete her article, comes to terms with her sterile marriage and disconnect from her children, and begrudgingly completes her daily chores, we witness her life unravel as a result.

Binoche (Trois Couleurs: Bleu and Certified Copy) is as committed as usual, and while her performance is nowhere near as controversial as her younger co-stars, it is still pretty bold. Often playing vulnerable and miserable characters (disillusioned single mothers) she gives this her all, thoroughly convincing at relaying her tortured psyche purely through her wayward body language. Unfortunately, there is next-to-no story driving this character study. Balancing the explicitly recounted stories of the girls (and these will catch viewers off guard) with Binoche’s domestic malfunction as a result of personal sexual enlightenment is actually a pretty shallow fable and laborious, arty-farty stuff, which lacks vision.