Saturday, December 28, 2013

22 Best 'New To Me' Films in 2013

Again I wanted to acknowledge some films that I watched for the first time this year that weren't just released in 2013. The last two years I revealed the films exclusively using a screen shot, challenging readers to figure out what the film is themselves. I have done it the same way this year.

Films: Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (F.W Murnau), High Noon (Fred Zinnemann, 1952), Playtime (Jacques Tati, 1967), Walkabout (Nicolas Roeg, 1971), Westworld (Michael Crichton, 1973), Badlands (Terrence Malick, 1973), The King of Comedy (Martin Scorsese, 1982), A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven. 1984), Stop Making Sense (Jonathan Demme, 1984), Hannah and Her Sisters (Woody Allen, 1986), Drugstore Cowboy (Gus Van Sant, 1989), Sex Lies and Viedotape (Steven Soderbergh, 1989), Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater, 1993), Whisper of the Heart (Yoshifumi Kondô, 1995), Before Sunrise (Richard Linklater, 1995), Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999), Before Sunset (Richard Linklater, 2004), The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky, 2006), Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow, 2012), Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell, 2012), Cloud Atlas (Lana and Andy Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, 2012), and Gravity (Alfonso Cuaron, 2013). 

Monday, December 23, 2013

EOY Lists - Top 50 Films of 2013 (By Australian Release Date)

Before I get into the main list - a total of 50 films I thoroughly enjoyed in 2013 that had a release in an Australian cinema over the course of the year (Jan 1-Dec 26) - I will mention some great films that screened exclusively at film festivals, or has been screened for media before a 2014 cinema release.

15 Great Unreleased - 1. Dirty Wars (SFF), 2. Nebraska (2014 Release), 3. Her (2014 Release), 4. Blue is the Warmest Color (2014 Release) 5. Aftermath (Jewish Film Festival), 5. The Past (SFF), 7. A Band Called Death (SUFF), 8. 12 Years A Slave (2014 Release), 9. For Those in Peril (SFF), 10. Wadjda (SFF), 11. Gimme the Loot (Possible Worlds), 12. Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction (SUFF), 13. Sound City (Straight-to-DVD), 14. Computer Chess (SFF), 15. Museum Hours (SFF)

Honourable Mentions - 50. Stoker, 49. Oblivion, 48. Frozen, 47. Rust and Bone, 46. Metallica: Through the Never, 45. The Conjuring, 44. Only God Forgives, 43. Drug War, 42. Beyond the Hills, 41. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, 40. The Spectacular Now, 39. The Way Way Back, 38. The Paperboy, 37. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, 36. Pacific Rim, 35. Like Someone In Love, 34. Mystery Road, 33. To the Wonder, 32. Frances Ha, 31. Spring Breakers, 30. Amour, 29. American Hustle, 28. Laurence Anyways, 27. No, 26. Mud...

Friday, December 20, 2013

2013 Christmas/Boxing Day Movie Guide

Lets have a look at the films hitting screens on Australia's biggest theatrical release day - Boxing Day. Having seen five of the seven films (Drinking Buddies comes exclusively to Nova, Melbourne) I can declare it a much better group than last year's, surprisingly topped by the still-unremarkable Samsara. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Les Miserables and Wreck-It Ralph were all disappointing.

Disney are back with Frozen and Peter Jackson returns with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug with Steven Frears' Philomena, Jonathan Teplitzky's The Railway Man and Ben Stiller's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty joining the wonderful indie duo Short Term 12 (Destin Cretton) and Drinking Buddies (Joe Swanberg).

NOTE: The Railway Man (reviewed here by Blake Howard) and Philomena remain unseen.

Short Term 12 (★★★★1/2) - Wonderfully written and directed by Destin Cretton, Short Term 12 is actually based on Cretton’s 2008 short film of the same name, which also stars Brie Larson and several other cast members.  It is a sincere film that is full of life, with fantastic performances and arresting drama that provokes almost every emotion imaginable from an audience. Infusing well-suited humour, and without overdone sentiment, Cretton beautifully balances the uplifting and the heartbreaking in an authentic telling of tremendously moving human stories.

Grace (Larson) is a twenty-something supervisor of a Southern California foster-care facility called Short Term 12. She works long, tough hours as a nurturing and counseling presence for damaged and at-risk teenagers and provided leadership for her colleagues (some of whom are experienced, others we join on their first day). She loves her long-term boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher Jr), who also works at Short Term 12, and their mutual understanding of the line between their professional and romantic relationship is one of the many charms in the film. These two are perfect for one another, and it is obvious. Over the course of the film Grace will be forced to deal with a mounting series of personal anxieties that have been bubbling beneath the surface as a result of some unexpected recent news and the arrival of a new girl Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), whom she closely relates to. This begins to affect both her relationship and her profession until she is forced to take on her own advice. 

We learn plenty about each of these layered, endearing characters – Mason’s childhood situation and what inspired him to take on this profession, the severity of the gifted Marcus’ (Keith Stanfield) frustrations and the crippling fear he has of the outside world – through surprising ways. They are all so richly explored that come the end of the film they feel like new friends. There is something graceful about how this cleverly structured film unravels. There is a natural sense of energy to every scene – from the jubilant birthday celebrations, to the devastatingly personal one-on-one shares – an effortless chemistry between the cast and an expertly photographed fly-on-the-wall style that has clearly been helmed by a very intelligent filmmaker.

Quite simply, Short Term 12 is a wonderful film. Larson is terrific and gives her challenging role her all. Tackling serious issues with optimism, it possesses an authenticity that comes about so rarely and embraces the essential role of the foster-carer and the daily strain they put themselves through to ensure others have a better life. I didn’t want to leave these characters. It is one of the year’s best films, make it a Boxing Day priority.

Drinking Buddies (★★★★1/2) - Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson (outstanding and perfectly cast) star as Kate and Luke, inseparable friends and co-workers who could be more. Their respective personal lives – Luke is discussing marriage with his long-time girlfriend, while Kate is in the midst of another relationship that looks set to fail – and their many a shared beer, complicate matters, however. Joe Swanberg’s observant, funny, relatable and quite brilliant comedy/drama intricately examines male-female friendships, the everyday behaviour of likeable white middle class individuals and the emotional strain that stems from their various relationships.

Kate and Luke work at a Chicago craft brewery. He’s part of the brewery team, she’s in the office and on the phone, coordinating functions. They have lunch together on a daily basis, hang out after work at the local pub and sometimes end up snuggling together passed out on the couch. Luke and his girlfriend of six years, Jill (Anna Kendrick), are contemplating marriage, a topic she continually suggests they agree to talk about in the future, sensing that Luke is reluctant and having second thoughts. Though Luke’s relationship with Kate has never crossed any boundaries, it is an unorthodox one. He loves Jill, that is clear, but is she right for him? Kate has been going steady with Chris (Ron Livingston), a music producer, but their relationship seems to lack spark. Chris extends an invite to Luke and Jill to join he and Kate at his family’s holiday house. There they find themselves naturally paired up – Chris with Jill, Luke with Kate – with the ensuing entanglements appearing to change the course of both relationships.

What is a stroke of genius is Swanberg’s decision to allow his actors to improvise their dialogue and have control over their character’s personalities – even to the point of choosing their own clothes – which made their interactions unpredictable and believable. These people talk like everyday people – broken, idle chitchat and sometimes speaking but not actually saying anything – with the actors beautifully conveying their emotions through the organic progression of the conversations.

While there are dramatic elements Drinking Buddies is a very funny film. The genuine performances ensure that we care for these characters – so much so that we feel like they are our own friends come the end of the fim. Kendrick and Livingston are excellent too, and in an even smaller role so is Jason Sudeikis as Kate and Luke’s boss. In one of many memorable sequences Kate and Jake's boss (Jason Sudeikis) joins his employees for a night out. Having drunk too much, he tries to make small talk, only to learn that he just doesn’t fit in. It is the little moments such as these, the bold reliance on cast chemistry, improvised dialogue and spontaneous emotion, as well as the fantastic setting offered by the brewery, that gives Drinking Buddies immense charm and those rare qualities that prompt one to return to this chapter of these character’s lives again.

Review: American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)

David O. Russell’s second film to hit Australian screens over the past twelve months – following his masterful romantic comedy/drama Silver Linings Playbook - is American Hustle, a stylish, complex and genre defiant 70’s-set crime-caper with a wonderful ensemble cast. Endowed with a manic sense of pace – the characters talk fast, the camera is always active and conflicting tones co-exist within the same scene – Russell and his co-screenwriter Eric Warren Singer have successfully managed to wrangle this convoluted piece of history into a cohesive screenplay with an entertaining fictional twist. It is an impressive achievement that takes a little while to process and a second viewing, once we understand each of the players and where they end up, is perhaps essential.

It is Christian Bale’s Irving Rosenfeld, a brilliant con man, who brings the emotional core to this loaded film. Along with his partner and lover, Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), Rosenfeld has built a successful foundation of financial scams and fake art dealings on top of a legitimate dry cleaning business. When a wildly ambitious and unpredictable FBI Agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) nabs them, they are forced to help him take out corrupt Jersey politicians, and in extension, intimidating members of the mafia, by conning them into taking bribes. They don’t spend time in prison, and DiMaso makes a name for himself. Their plan comes to involve the Mayor of Camden, New Jersey, Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), who gets caught between friendship with Rosenfeld and the FBI ABSCAM scandal, and unexpectedly Rosenfeld’s wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence).

Continue reading at Graffiti With Punctuation

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

'Dendy Direct', A Video On Demand Service, To Launch In April 2014

Dendy Cinemas is proud to announce that the Dendy customer will soon be able to watch quality movies and TV shows at home or on the go with the launch of its video on demand service – Dendy Direct. Dendy Direct will be the first video on demand service offered by an independent cinema chain in Australia.

Dendy Direct will have movies to rent and own in addition to TV content available to purchase. The Dendy customer will be able to watch their content on a variety of devices: desktop/PC, tablet, mobile (iOS and Android) and through an exclusive application on Samsung Smart TVs.
The Dendy Direct user experience has been developed with the lover of quality film in mind and curation at the core of its offering. The bespoke storefront has been designed to facilitate simple navigation and a hassle free selection process. It will deliver the Dendy customer a rich and seamless experience, unlike any other digital platform in the market.

Greg Hughes, CEO of Dendy Cinemas, says “Dendy is a strong brand with a loyal community. Dendy Direct, our new video on demand service, will enable us to meet more of the Dendy customer’s entertainment needs, whether that be cinema or home entertainment content. With the addition of Dendy Direct, our brand proposition will encompass transactions across a broad spectrum of product types and lifecycles”.

Created in partnership with Massive Interactive, Dendy Direct will set the standard for quality video platforms in Australia.

Ron Downey, CEO of Massive Interactive, says "Massive Interactive is delighted to be Dendy's technical partner for the Dendy Direct video storefront. This exciting new venture combines Dendy's detailed knowledge of cinema and movie-watchers with Massive's expertise in online video store end to end solutions and storefronts on multiple devices. Australians who love Dendy's quality brand proposition will soon be able to enjoy it in their own home on a device of their choice".

Dendy Direct is scheduled to launch in April 2014.

10 Underrated Films From 2013

All of these films have had their champions. Some much more than others. But, there has been plenty of negative reactions to these films circling around the internet. Hard to fathom, personally.

Everyone has their opinion, but I think a lot of these are better than the consensus suggests.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

August: Osage County (John Wells, 2013)

Family can be messy, but when a sourly dysfunctional family with such a venomous matriarch, such deep-rooted conflicts and tumultuous secrets come together under the one roof, we can expect it to implode in spectacular fashion. In the scalding, emotionally charged August: Osage County, directed by John Wells and adapted for the screen by Tracy Letts (Killer Joe) from his own Pulitzer Prize-winning play, a brilliant ensemble cast trade verbal blows in the rural Midwest. Darkly hilarious and brimming with intensity, this complex family drama perhaps overstays its welcome and lathers on too many skeletons, but has a deeply affecting resonance thanks to the extraordinary work of Meryl Streep and co, and one firecracker of a screenplay.

The film’s opening sequence introduces us to Beverly Weston (Sam Shepard), a renowned poet with a drinking problem, and his wife Violet (Streep). Violet suffers from mouth cancer and has been left with signs of aggressive chemo treatment. She has also developed an addiction to prescription drugs, and with Beverly no longer willing or able to take care of her, he has hired a caregiver.

A few weeks later Violet’s daughter Barbara (Julia Roberts) receives a call from her sister Ivy (Julianne Nicholson). Violet – wearyingly negative, consistently intoxicated, and spewing hateful insults – is distraught by the sudden disappearance of Beverly, which results in the entire family being called upon to search for him, only to find out that he has committed suicide. Barbara’s husband Bill (Ewan McGregor) and daughter Jean (Abigail Breslin), her sister Karen (Juliette Lewis) and fiance Steve (Dermot Mulroney), along with Violet’s sister Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale), brother-in-law Charles (Chris Cooper) and nephew ‘Little’ Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch) assemble at the Weston house following the funeral. From there tempers flare as long-term frustrations combust, secrets are uncovered, and a slew of grievances follow with nobody evading involvement. Violet comes to realise just how toxic her influence over her divergent family has been, and how the lives of her daughters have been forever affected as a result.

Continue reading at Graffiti With Punctuation

Friday, December 13, 2013

EOY List - Favourite Male/Female Performances of 2013

Male Performances

Male Performer of the Year: Bradley Cooper (The Hangover Part III aside)
Honourable Mentions (in no particular order): Barkhad Abdi - Captain Phillips, Leonardo DiCaprio - Django Unchained, Alexis Denisof - Much Ado About Nothing, Matthew McConaughey - Mud/The Paperboy, Zac Effron – The Paperboy, Tye Sheridan - Mud, Aaron Pedersen - Mystery Road, Simon Pegg - The World's End, Geoffrey Rush - The Best Offer, James Gandolfini - Enough Said, Jude Law - Side Effects, Gael Garcia Bernal – No, Dane DeHaan – The Place Beyond the Pines, George MacKay – For Those in Peril, Robert De Niro - Silver Linings Playbook, Jake Johnson – Drinking Buddies, Bobby Cannavale – Blue Jasmine, Alexander Skarsgard – What Maisie Knew, Hugh Jackman – Prisoners, Miles Teller – The Spectacular Now, Keith Stanfield – Short Term 12, Chris Cooper – August: Osage County, Steve Coogan – Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, Will Forte – Nebraska, Michael Douglas and Matt Damon – Behind the Candelabra, Colin Farrell - Saving Mr Banks.

15. Jason Clark - Zero Dark Thirty

14. Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln

13. James Franco - Spring Breakers

12. Sam Rockwell - The Way Way Back

11. Michael B. Jordan - Fruitvale Station

10. Jake Gyllenhaal - Prisoners

9. Christian Bale – American Hustle

8. Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch - Prince Avalanche

7. Ethan Hawke - Before Midnight/Sinister

6. Bruce Dern - Nebraska

5. Denzel Washington - Flight

4. Christoph Waltz - Django Unchained

3. Bradley Cooper – Silver Linings Playbook/The Place Beyond the Pines/American Hustle

2. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender - 12 Years A Slave

1. Tom Hanks - Captain Phillips/Cloud Atlas/Saving Mr Banks

Female Performances

Female Performer of the Year: Jennifer Lawrence (duh!)
Honourable Mentions (In no particular order):  Shailene Woodley - The Spectacular Now, Olivia Wilde - Drinking Buddies, Amy Acker - Much Ado About Nothing, Rooney Mara – Side Effects, Vera Farmiga – The Conjuring, Juno Temple – Magic Magic, Onata Aprile – What Maisie Knew, Naomi Watts – The Impossible, Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur – Beyond the Hills, Julia Roberts – August: Osage County, Oprah Winfrey – The Butler, Melonie Diaz – Fruitvale Station, Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine, Mia Wasikowska, Stoker, Elizabeth Debicki – The Great Gatsby and June Squibb – Nebraska, Amy Adams – American Hustle, Emma Thompson - Saving Mr Banks.

15. Amy Seimetz - Upstream Color

14. Berenice Bejo - The Past

13. Suzanne Clément - Laurence Anyways

12. Lupita Nyong'o - 12 Years A Slave

11. Lea Seydoux - Blue is the Warmest Color/Sister

10. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss - Enough Said

9. Greta Gerwig - Frances Ha

8. Sandra Bullock – Gravity/The Heat

7. Meryl Streep - August: Osage County

6. Jessica Chastain - Zero Dark Thirty

5. Brie Larson - Short Term 12

4. Jennifer Lawrence - Silver Linings Playbook/The Hunger Games: Catching Fire/American Hustle

3. Julie Delpy - Before Midnight

2. Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine

1. Adele Exarchopoulos - Blue is the Warmest Color

What are your favourite actors/performances of 2013? I still haven't seen Her, The Wolf of Wall Street and Inside Llewyn Davis, but their stars will have to wait for consideration next year. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Review: Short Term 12 (Destin Cretton, 2013)

Wonderfully written and directed by Destin Cretton (I Am Not A Hipster), Short Term 12 is actually based on Cretton’s 2008 short film of the same name, which also stars Brie Larson and several other cast members. Premiering at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival Short Term 12 won the Grand Jury Narrative Feature Award and the Narrative Audience Award, and has since been nominated for several Independent Spirit Awards. It is a sincere film that is full of life, with fantastic performances and arresting drama that provokes almost every emotion imaginable from an audience. Infusing well-suited humour, and without overdone sentiment, Cretton beautifully balances the uplifting and the heartbreaking in an authentic telling of tremendously moving human stories.

So observant is this study of the relationship between caretakers and residents at a foster-care facility that you leave questioning whether Cretton has had some experience in this environment himself. Extraordinarily, he has worked in a facility like the one he depicts, and has actually drawn influence from his personal encounters. It is a film about the emotional and physical scarring suffered my many youths, and the role these facilities (and passionate supervisors) play in offering a safe environment for temporary refuge and in helping to ease them back into society.

Grace (Larson, 21 Jump Street) is a twenty-something supervisor of a Southern California foster-care facility called Short Term 12. She works long, tough hours as a nurturing and counseling presence for damaged and at-risk teenagers and provided leadership for her colleagues (some of whom are experienced, others we join on their first day). She loves her long-term boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher Jr, The Newsroom), who also works at Short Term 12, and their mutual understanding of the line between their professional and romantic relationship is one of the many charms in the film. These two are perfect for one another, and it is obvious. Over the course of the film Grace will be forced to deal with a mounting series of personal anxieties that have been bubbling beneath the surface as a result of some unexpected recent news and the arrival of a new girl Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), whom she closely relates to. This begins to affect both her relationship and her profession until she is forced to take on her own advice.

Continue reading at Graffiti With Punctuation.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

EOY Lists - 15 Favourite Albums of 2013

10 Honouable Mentions: Holy Fire - Foals, Monomania - Deerhunter, Yeezus - Kanye West, Drifters/Love is the Devil - Dirty Beaches, The Electric Lady - Janelle Monae, Cupid's Head - The Field, Pedestrian Verse - Frightened Rabbit, Trouble Will Find Me - The National, The Bones of What You Believe - Chvrches, ...Like Clockwork - Queens of the Stone Age

15. Days Are Gone - Haim (8.3)

14. Settle - Disclosure (8.4)

13. You're Nothing - Iceage (8.4)

12. Overgrown - James Blake (8.5)

11. Slow Focus - Fuck Buttons (8.6)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

EOY Lists - Top 5 Australian Films of 2013

I have to note that there have been a few 2013 Australian releases I didn't get the chance to see (mostly through limited exposure), which perhaps makes this list a little premature. They include Save Your Legs, Patrick, 100 Bloody Acres, Lasseter's Bones and In Bob We Trust. The chances of me seeing these films before the end of the year are very slim, so I am going to recognize the best of very recent Australian cinema without their consideration.

While I quite enjoyed Catriona McKenzie's outback-set coming-of-age adventure-drama Satellite Boy and some elements of Baz Luhmann's outrageously overblown adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic, The Great Gatsby, they fall just short of this list.

My #4 selection actually came out in Australian cinemas late 2012, but missed the consideration cutoff for the 2012 AACTA Awards. As it is amongst this year's AACTA nominees, and as I have begun to appreciate it a lot more now than I did when I first watched it, I have decided to draw some attention to it.

5. Drift - A good-looking Australian surf drama directed by Morgan O’ Neil (who also wrote the screenplay) and Ben Nott, tells the story of Andy (Myles Pollard) and Jimmy (Xavier Samuel) Kelly, who escaped from Sydney with their mother (Robyn Malcolm) in their teens, to a surfing hotspot in the Margaret River region in Western Australia. Over a decade later, Jimmy has become a gifted talent with the potential to take on the worlds best. With their mother still in debt from the mortgage, Andy decides to start an ambitious entrepreneurial venture, which unites the skills of the family, as well as some local friends including JB (Sam Worthington), a Combi-dwelling surf photographer and his companion from Hawaii, Lani (Lesley-Ann Brandt) and personally crafted surf gear straight out of their backyard.

Drift focuses on a small pocket of this development, but surf gear is everywhere in Australia and the carefree beach-dwelling lifestyle will be relatable to anyone who has ever lived near or visited a coastal tourist spot. Commendably, it is a film about the drive required to embrace your passion, the selfless decisions we make for one another and the importance of maintaining a strong sibling relationship and surrounding yourself with friends you can trust. It is a shame the script is dragged under by some forced drama and antagonism despite the compelling central relationship between the brothers. There are some convenient and far-fetched developments in the final act, in which the future of the family business predictably rests in a competitive event. The spectacular surfing captures possess plenty of tension, but the film’s dark turn into crime and drug abuse is less effective.

The charismatic Pollard is especially impressive. He builds an endearing everyman who in the wake of a serious injury in his youth saw a potential career cut short. He had to settle into a stable but unrewarding job to take care of his family. Headstrong and ambitious, he embraces his ‘go-for-it’ attitude and decides to take a chance and try and steer his family out of debt. He knows it will take a lot of hard work – knowledge not shared by his irresponsible younger brother – and he cultivates his family’s unique skills, his own business interests, as well as JB’s insight into creative publicity, into an expansive business with potential.

4. Dead Europe - Adapted by Louise Fox from the novel of the same name by Christos Tsiolkas, Dead Europe tells the disturbing tale of a young Greek-Australian photographer, Isaac (Ewen Leslie, Jewboy and Sleeping Beauty), who, while attending an exhibition of his works, transports his recently deceased father’s ashes from Australia to his ancestral homeland in Greece. Visiting Europe for the first time, Isaac finds it not only a rich environment for future work, but comes to learn about his father’s sinister past involving a young Jewish boy at the end of World War II. Isaac’s world begins to unravel as he journeys from Athens to Paris to Budapest and realizes he cannot escape the ghosts of the past. There is an intense clash of inherent guilt, embedded prejudice, sordid behaviour and personal discovery.

Dead Europe is an odd film, and having not read Tsialkas’ novel I found the narrative difficult to penetrate. The story is episodic, the developments are jarring and often lack context, and rather than simultaneously focus on the two stories – Isaac’s and his father’s – it reveals the latter almost exclusively through testimony. A problem I had with the film was that the information Isaac collects about his late father and his family’s past doesn’t feel earned, but falls into his lap often through inexplicable convenience and following some questionable decisions. Isaac comes to realize that the ghosts of his father’s past – embedded within the architecture of Europe, and the still-prevalent social issues – are making their presence felt.

Dead Europe is smartly shot by Germaine McMicking and director Tony Krawitz builds a tense, unsettling atmosphere and makes excellent use of the locations, simultaneously capturing the beauty and the ugly side of these picturesque European cities. The intense tone is enhanced by a sensational synth score from Jed Kurzell, who worked on Snowtown. This bleak and unpleasant story eats at your soul and left a grimy mark that I am still carrying. The daring 80-odd-minute adaptation feels like it is missing many pieces, which is unfortunate, because there is plenty to admire. A beguiling ending ensures it is contemplative and resonating and Leslie and Csokas are strong in their roles.

Monday, December 9, 2013

2013/14 Awards Coverage

Much like last year I am immersing myself in the awards season in the lead up to the 86th Academy Awards. I am trying my hardest to take the opportunity to catch all of the films likely to be in contention, and I have much to look forward to over the course of the next month. Again, I am providing regular updates and commentary on the season for Graffiti With Punctuation. Head over there for my articles on the Independent Spirit Awards nominations and winners at the European Film Awards, Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the National Board of Review amongst others.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

New Releases (12/12/13)

In cinemas this week: One Life (December 9), American Hustle, Battle of the Year and The Gilded Cage.

American Hustle - A fictional film set in the alluring world of one of the most stunning scandals to rock our nation, American Hustle tells the story of brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), who along with his equally cunning and seductive British partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) is forced to work for a wild FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). DiMaso pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia that's as dangerous as it is enchanting. Jeremy Renner is Carmine Polito, the passionate, volatile, New Jersey political operator caught between the con-artists and Feds. Irving's unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) could be the one to pull the thread that brings the entire world crashing down. Like David O. Russell's previous films, American Hustle defies genre, hinging on raw emotion, and life and death stakes.

One Life - Daniel Craig narrates a feature length documentary about survival in the natural world. 

Battle of the Year - An international dance crew tournament that attracts all the best teams from around the world, but the Americans haven't won in fifteen years. Los Angeles Hip Hop mogul Dante (Alonso) wants to put the country that started the Sport back on top. He enlists his hard-luck friend Blake (Holloway), who was a championship basketball coach, to coach his team. Armed with the theory that the right coach can make any team champions, they assemble a Dream Team of all the best dancers across the country. With only three months until Battle of the Year, Blake has to use every tactic he knows to get twelve talented individuals to come together as a team if they're going to bring the Trophy back to America where it started.

The Gilded Cage - Writer/director Ruben Alves’ enormously charming, semi-autobiographical Parisian comedy is the story of a loving, hardworking married couple whose long-held dream of returning to their homeland finally comes true – only to be secretly undermined by their overly dependent friends and neighbours. Maria (Rita Blanco) and José (Joaquim de Almeida) emigrated from Portugal 30 years ago. Ever since, they have lived in the modest ground floor lodgings of a chic apartment building in Paris, raising their now adult daughter and teenage son, and becoming utterly indispensible to all around them. When José learns he has inherited the family winery and the couple’s dream of returning to Portugal is now possible, they are elated – but struggle with how to tell those around them. However, word of the big news spreads anyway, and soon their family, neighbours, friends and employers are scrambling behind the scenes to find ways to prevent them from leaving.

Weekly Recommendation: American Hustle. David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook is still one of my favourite films of the year. Having a second film released in Australian cinemas in 2013 is extraordinary. I cannot wait. Also, we get it a week before the U.S.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Review: Frozen (Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, 2013)

In cinemas Boxing Day. 

Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, from a screenplay by Lee, Frozen is loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale The Snow Queen and sees Disney make a glorious return to the classical musical-animation, which included a string of masterpieces in the early 90′s, but in stereoscopic 3D rather than hand drawn. Returning us to a magical realm of kingdoms and princesses, with an entertaining adventure tale of fraying sisterhood, cursed sorcery and hapless snowmen, this stunning animated feature is perfect family viewing this holiday season.

Elsa (Broadway star Idina Menzel), the princess of Arendelle possesses the rare ability to conjure ice and snow. When she accidentally freezes her younger sister Anna (Kristen Bell) as a child, the King and Queen seek help from Trolls who manage to heal Anna, but are forced to remove any memory of her sister’s powers. In order to protect Elsa the family locks themselves away in the castle, with Elsa, out of fear of hurting her sister again, remaining in isolation. A rift develops between the sisters as they grow up, which continues until the day of Elsa’s royal coronation, and the anticipated re-opening of the castle, several years later.

When Elsa rejects Anna’s acceptance of the whim marriage proposal by the visiting Prince Hans (Santino Fontana), her secret powers are exposed to all, including the visiting dignitaries. When the entire Kingdom is sent into an eternal winter, greedy profiteers target the fleeing Elsa. Anna, with the help of some companions she meets on her journey – a rouge ice trader named Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his royal reindeer Sven, and her childhood snowman Olaf (Josh Gad), re-created as part of the magic – set out on a journey through the frozen, snow-capped realm to find and protect Elsa, and help her to save Arendelle.

Continue reading at Graffiti With Punctuation