Thursday, February 28, 2013

2013 Alliance Francaise French Film Festival: Looking For Hortense (Pascal Bonitzer, 2012)

The curiously named Cherchez Hortense (Looking for Hortense), co-written (with Agathe de Sacy) and directed by Pascal Bonitzer, is breezy, humanistic, handsomely lensed, but ultimately an unspectacular French dramedy. With sprinkles of a mid-life existential crisis come redemption tale, a strained father-son relationship, the unraveling of a tired marriage and a semblance of a social commentary, Bonitzer incorporates too many strands in his narrative. It is neither dramatic nor funny enough to leave a lasting impression.

We are initially led to believe that the story will follow Kristen Scott-Thomas’ theatre-director Iva, but following the opening scene of her stressing about a scene in her new play, and acknowledging her handsome cast member’s attraction to her, the story then shifts to her lethargic husband Damien (Jean Pierre Bacri), whom we follow for the remainder of the film. He is a lecturer in Chinese customs at a business school, but is predominantly housebound taking care of the couple’s son Noe (Marin Orcand Tourres), with Iva working late, and suspiciously staying out later.

Continue reading at Graffiti With Punctuation

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Review: Barbara (Christian Petzold, 2012)

Barbara is released in cinemas March 7 through Madman Films. 

Christian Petzold’s Barbara is an elegantly photographed, but fidgety-paced character drama. As an undercurrent of East/West tension ripples below  the surface Petzold’s understated direction creates a suffocating atmosphere influenced by conflicting emotion, and impressive performances from Nina Hoss and Ronald Zehrfield. Barbara is a film that moves slow and requires attentiveness. The payoff, which is admittedly moving, doesn’t quite reward the particular build-up.

Set in East Germany, Barbara tells the story of a doctor (Hoss, Yella) who has been exiled from Berlin to a country hospital after requesting an exit visa. As she warily acquaints herself with her new apartment and colleagues – including her friendly boss Andre (Zehrfield, In the Face of the Crime) – Barbara is secretly plotting her escape with her West lover, Jorg (Mark Waschke). Unannounced visits by the Stasi, who thoroughly conduct shakedowns of her apartment and person for contraband, keep Barbara on edge, and result in her being standoffish and suspicious of her colleagues. Barbara reveals her skills as a pediatric surgeon, showing compassion towards her young patients. Barbara morphs into a thriller of sorts, clouding Andre’s motivations for extending such kindness and sensitivity, and having found unexpected responsibility and purpose, Barbara’s specific agenda.

Continue reading at Graffiti With Punctuation.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Review: Cloud Atlas (Tom Tykwer, Lana and Andy Wachowski, 2012)

Have you ever experienced a flash of déjà vu, or feel like your life has been affected by some unexpected karma? Are we all connected to people from the past and do our actions influence the future? These questions (and many more) are tackled by the collaborative team of Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) and Lana and Andy Wachowski (The Matrix, Speed Racer), whose ambitious large-scale screen adaptation of David Mitchell’s dense, multi-narrative 2004 novel, Cloud Atlas, is a masterful achievement. The film’s four-year journey to the screen was a difficult one, and with the production budget predominantly supplied by independent sources, it is one of the most expensive independent films ever made. Unfortunately, a poor showing at the U.S box office has resulted in a limited Australian release. Though some may find navigating these boldly assembled interweaving of stories frustrating and unmanageable, Cloud Atlas repeatedly rewards patience and becomes a masterfully epic experience that should not be missed.

Cloud Atlas tells six simultaneous stories, and unlike in the novel, where I believe the stories are introduced consecutively and leak into one another, here they are cut together to create the feeling of parallel existence, despite being separated by decades and centuries. What could a San Francisco lawyer journeying through the South Pacific in 1849, a young British composer in 1936, a journalist who stumbles across a conspiracy in 1973, an aging publisher wrongly admitted to a retirement home in 2012, a Neo-Soul clone/liberator in 2144 and a tribesman in an unknown post-apocalyptic future possibly have in common? As we explore each of these fascinating tales, we find not only the same actors appearing in wildly different roles, we watch as each of the characters are met with conflict and antagonism (often unjust authority) and must rely on acts of love, kindness, and bravery to overcome them. Over time, a killer becomes a hero and unlikely friendship inspires a revolution.

Continue Reading at Graffiti With Punctuation

Monday, February 25, 2013

Recap: Oscar Predictions

Just to recap, here's who I have picked to win today.

I would like to note, that having written these a while back I now think that Robert De Niro is going to win Best Supporting Actor, and with Argo expected to take out Best Picture I can't see it losing Best Adapted Screenplay either. Still, these categories are all competitive and anything could happen.

Best Pic: Argo
Best Director: Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Best Actor: Daniel Day Lewis, Lincoln
Best Actress: Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Best Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained
Best Adapted Screenplay: David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Best Animated Film: Frankenweenie
Best Documentary Feature: Searching For Sugar Man
Best Foreign Language Film: Amour
Best Cinematography: Life of Pi
Best Editing: Argo
Best Original Score: Life of Pi
Best Production Design: Lincoln
Best Costume Design: Anna Karenina
Best Original Song: Skyfall
Best Sound Mixing: Life of Pi
Best Sound Editing: Zero Dark Thirty
Best Make-up and Hairstyling: Les Miserables
Best Visual Effects: Life of Pi

New Releases (28/02/13)

What a terrific line-up in cinemas this week: The Imposter, Cloud Atlas, Side Effects, The Paperboy and I Give It A Year.

Side Effects - Provocative thriller about Emily and Martin (Rooney Mara and Channing Tatum), a successful New York couple whose world unravels when a new drug prescribed by Emily's psychiatrist (Jude Law) - intended to treat anxiety - has unexpected side effects. Believed to be Steven Soderbergh's final film before retirement.

Cloud Atlas - Cloud Atlas explores how the actions and consequences of individual lives impact one another throughout the past, the present and the future. Action, mystery and romance weave dramatically through the story as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero and a single act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution in the distant future. Each member of the ensemble appears in multiple roles as the stories move through time. Full review to come soon.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Definitive Top 30 of 2012

As I have done the last few years at the end of February, I am revealing my definitive list of 2012 films. My list at the conclusion of 2012 involved the films released in Australia during the calendar year that I had seen for the first time, plus any festival viewing. As we don't get most of the Oscar heavy hitters (like Django Unchained, Zero Dark Thirty) until January/February here in Australia, these films are not considered. As it stands, viewed between March 1, 2012 and today, here are my Top 30 2012 films.

Friday, February 22, 2013

New Release Review: The Imposter (Bart Layton, 2012)

I first watched The Imposter at last year's Melbourne International Film Festival. This review first appeared in my diary coverage.  

In 1994, a 13-year-old boy, Nicholas Barclay disappears from his rural hometown in San Antonio, Texas without a trace. Three and a half years later, his family is contacted with the news that Nicholas has turned an orphanage in southern Spain. He has a story of kidnap, abuse and torture - at the hands of the military - and is evidently a very different person to the blue-eyed, blonde-haired youth who went missing. Not all is as it seems, and we soon learn that the boy welcomed home by Nicholas' overjoyed, yet completely oblivious family is not Nicholas Barclay at all, but Frederic Bourdin, a 23-year-old French man. The Imposter is a truly mind-blowing documentary which blends real-life testimony with sleekly photographed re-enactments. Despite hearing both sides of the tale, and we gather further insight from investigating parties and those involved with the reuniting of the family with their supposed son, we still leave feeling like we are no closer to complete authority on the truth behind this bizarre story.

During my post-screening research I learned that there have been some hostile responses to The Imposter with claims made that Bart Layton trivialised the boy's disappearance, made a mockery of the family - who are either really dumb, are so susceptible in their grief they will accept anyone into their home, or are hiding some sinister secrets - and offered up very little new for those already familiar with the story. I guess it does work better for viewers who have no idea that this extraordinary series of events even took place, but there are still some astounding revelations and dramatic turns that should fool the initiated too. It is a story that is too good to be true, and while this might seem like an obvious statement, the accounts are so cloudy that we feel like we can no longer accept what is perceived to be the truth. Manipulation is part of what makes this such an engrossing study, and the fact that something like this has taken place really is hard to process. Also, the way the film is structured, edited and scored, it rivals some of the great whodunit mysteries. It is bewildering, edge-of-your-seat entertainment.

Is West of Memphis cinematic closure for the West Memphis Three?

By now everyone should have heard of the West Memphis Three case. Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr. (aged 16-18 at the time) were convicted of the murder of three eight-year-old boys, Steve Branch, Michael Moore and Christopher Byers in West Memphis, by the State of Arkansas in 1994. Damien was sentenced to death, with Jason and Jessie sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1996 a groundbreaking HBO documentary chronicling the case, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky), aired and immediately brought public attention to what many believed to be a disastrous miscarriage of justice. Damien, on Death Row, especially attracted supporters and over the next sixteen years a very thorough, but continuously stonewalled re-investigation has taken place in the hopes of overturning these convictions and finding the real killer/s.

Two more powerful documentaries, Paradise Lost: Revelations (2000)and the Academy Award nominated Paradise Lost: Purgatory (2011), have since aired, but complementing the trilogy is the Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson and Damien Echols produced, West of Memphis. Peter and Fran, like Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder, actor Johnny Depp and musicians Henry Rollins and Natalie Maines were high profile celebrities with influence who befriended and supported Damien and his wife Lorri Davis (married after years of correspondence in 1999) and helped finance the investigation.

As expected, West of Memphis is an incredible achievement. It is gripping and maddening throughout and comprised of a stunning volume of formerly unseen footage. The damning new evidence highlights a fresh suspect and the world learns more of the corruption & lies that plagued the case from the start. It is also a profoundly moving example of the power of public defiance against corrupt law enforcement, malicious supposition, double standards, perjury and an inept criminal justice system that has gone un-flagged for too long.

Continue reading at Graffiti With Punctuation.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Alliance Francaise French Film Festival Review: Another Woman's Life (Sylvie Testud)

Another Woman’s Life is screening as part of the 2013 Alliance Francaise French Film Festival.

Another Woman’s Life, the directorial debut from Sylvie Testud (also an actress and successful author)is a somewhat erratic time-warp comedy/drama adapted from the novel by Frederique Deghelt. Driven by an interesting premise and a committed and energetic performance from audience favourite Juliette Binoche (Trois Couleurs: Bleu, Chocolat), Testud’s film overcomes some clumsy and forced execution, to be moderately charming.

The film’s prologue introduces us to Marie (Binoche), an ambitious twentysomething who applies for an entry-level job at the high finance corporation of Dimitri Speranski (Vernon Dobtcheff). On the night of her 26th birthday, Marie sleeps with Speranski’ cartoonist son, Paul (Mathieu Kassovitz, Amelie), whom she has recently fallen in love with. When she awakes the next morning she is surprised to find herself in a lavish Parisian home situated at the base of the Eiffel Tower. She is equally shocked to learn that she is now in her early 40’s, and has slept through and forgotten the last fifteen years of her life.

Continue Reading at Graffiti With Punctuation.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

New Releases (21/02/13)

Amour follows Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant, The Conformist, Trois Couleurs: Rouge) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva, Trois Couleurs: Bleu), retired music teachers in their 80's with a daughter, Eva (Isabelle Huppert, The Piano Teacher), who lives abroad with her family. The couple's eternal love is severely tested when Anne suffers a debilitating stroke at the breakfast table one morning after attending a piano recital of one of Anne's former students in Paris. The stroke, which paralyses the right side of her body, leaves her house-bound and completely reliant on the care and continued devotion of her husband. As Anne begins to slowly deteriorate, the result of a second stroke, both her immense suffering and the tremendous stress and heartbreak this causes Georges is more-than-effectively conveyed to an audience that can only watch in both awe at the craftsmanship on display and despair at what we are literally being forced to watch. Haneke masterfully crafts an tender, honest, exhausting and emotionally devastating portrait of the strength of human devotion, delving into the fears that everybody has about old age, whether it is suffering like Anne does, or watching a loved one suffer and being unable to help them. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Nominees Announced in FCCA Awards

The Film Critic's Circle of Australia, of which I am a proud member, have announced their nominees in the 2012 Critics Awards for Australian Film.

Awards will be presented on Tuesday 19th March, and the following nominees are in alphabetical order.

One notable exclusion from a number of categories is Hail, Amiel Courtin Wilson's raw, uncompromising and quite brilliant docu-drama of a prisoner's struggle to return to society and his spiral into merciless self-destruction and madness/ Lore, Wish You Were Here and The Sapphires, as expected, featured the most prominently.


DEAD EUROPE (Producer: Liz Watts, Emile Sherman, Iain Canning)
LORE (Producer: Liz Watts, Karsten Stöter, Paul Welsh, Benny Drechsel)
NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN (Producer: Jodi Matterson)
SAPPHIRES, THE (Producer: Rosemary Blight, Kylie Du Fresne)
WISH YOU WERE HERE (Producer: Angie Fielder)

WAYNE BLAIR (Sapphires, The)
PETER TEMPLETON (Not Suitable for Children)

DEBORAH MAILMAN (Sapphires, The)
FELICITY PRICE (Wish You Were Here)
SARAH SNOOK (Not Suitable for Children)

JOEL EDGERTON (Wish You Were Here)
EWEN LESLIE (Dead Europe)
CHRIS O’DOWD (Sapphires, The)


JULES O’LOUGHLIN (Wish You Were Here)

MATTEO ZINGALES (Not Suitable For Children)

DANY COOPER (Sapphires, The)

JESSICA MAUBOY (Sapphires, The)
TERESA PALMER (Wish You Were Here)

ANTONY STARR (Wish You Were Here)
RYAN CORR (Not suitable for Children)


DESPITE THE GODS  (Director: Penny Vozniak, Producer: Karina Astrup)
DR SARMAST’S MUSIC SCHOOL (Director: Polly Watkins, Producer: Beth Frey)
LASSETER’S BONES (Director/Producer: Luke Walker)                                               
PAUL KELLY: STORIES OF ME (Director: Ian Darling, Producers: Susan MacKinnon, Mary Macrae, Ian Darling)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

2012 Motifs in Cinema: Inevitability of Death

With thanks to Andrew at Encore’s World of Film and Television I was asked to participate in Motifs of Cinema.

Motifs in Cinema is a discourse across 22 film blogs, assessing the way in which various thematic elements have been used in the 2012 cinematic landscape. How does a common theme vary in use from a comedy to a drama? Are filmmakers working from a similar canvas when they assess the issue of death or the dynamics of revenge? Like most things, a film begins with an idea - Motifs in Cinema assesses how the use of a common theme across various films changes when utilised by different artists.

In 2012 the motif of the ‘Inevitability of Death’ has been utilized in a diversity of ways. The following discussions of Oslo August 31st, The Grey, Looper, The Cabin in the Woods and Amour do contain specific details of the plot (spoilers).

Early on in Joachim Trier’s Oslo, August 31st, the central character, Anders, a former drug addict who has been allowed a day of leave from his rehabilitation facility, attempts to end his life. We, alone, witness this. We see him load his pockets with rocks and jump into a lake. A period of time later he explodes through the surface of the water, coughing and spluttering. Could he not go through with it? Perhaps, having considered taking his life for some time, he wanted to see if he ‘could’ when the time came? We follow Anders through Oslo for the remainder of the film, aware of what the other characters he meets – old friends who he reunites with, and in some instances confronts - are not. To them, he seems to have recovered and doing well. We are unsure, but we get an unsettling sense that this could potentially be Anders’ final day on earth. By personal design. There are empathetic moments where we understand Anders’ reaction to simple pleasures purely through his facial expressions, almost as if he knows this is the last time he will feel this sensation. Trier has some surprises in stall, because the day’s trajection isn’t a self-destructive spiral (as it could have been, and usually is for these sorts of films), but actually presents an optimistic future. But, there is still that undeniable feeling of inevitability in the atmosphere of this magnificent film that unnerves us as we accompany Anders through the day.

2013 Alliance Francaise French Film Festival Review: In the House (Francois Ozon)

In the House is screening as part of the 2013 Alliance Francaise French Film Festival.
In the House is the new film from esteemed French writer-director Francois Ozon (Swimming Pool, Potiche) adapted from ‘The Boy in the Last Row’ by Juan Mayorga. It is a dual character study of a world-weary teacher and failed novelist, and a gifted, but evidently troubled pupil who displays exceptional writing talent. It is an unsettling drama that leaves plenty to ponder, and deals with voyeurism, professional misconduct, the blurring of reality and fiction, and the conscious manipulation of the family dynamic.

Germaine (Fabrice Luchini) is a frustrated old-fashioned English literature teacher who has all-but given up hope for the new generation when he expresses his dismay to his art-curator wife, Jeanne (Kristin Scott Thomas), at his students’ recent inept efforts. Only one pupil from his class, Claude (Ernst Umhauer), turns in anything proficient on a writing assignment. Intrigued by the boy’s interesting, but somewhat inappropriate account of his weekend (which ends with a ‘to be continued…’), he questions whether it is a recount of the truth, or if it has been influenced by his imagination. This mystery remains throughout the film as we only ever see the events unfold as Luchini is reading them out.

Germaine takes an unnervingly voyeuristic interest in the boy’s follow-up essays. We learn that Claude has befriended a classmate Rapha (Bastien Ughetto). Offering to help him with his mathematics, he manages to ‘infiltrate’ the house of what he declares to be the perfect middle class family. Soon enough Rapha’s parents (a jovial Denis Menochet and a suffocated Emmanuelle Seigner) begin to treat him like a second son. Over time his actions and intentions become more sinister, and Germaine, hooked on the story, begins to play a role in manipulating events (even procuring a test in advance to help Rapha pass math) to ensure that Claude continues to be invited into the house, and with means to elaborate on his tale.

Continue Reading at Graffiti With Punctuation.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Predictions: 85th Academy Awards (Winners)

The full list of nominees for the 85th Academy Awards can be found here. Below are my hesitant predictions for twenty one of the categories. As you will see, I am sure of about half a dozen of these.

The 85th Academy Awards are held on February 25 (Australian time).  

Best Picture

Prediction: Argo
Could Win: Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Life of Pi
Should Win: Zero Dark Thirty

Here's how I'd rank the nominees in terms of their likelihood of winning:

Silver Linings Playbook
Life of Pi
Zero Dark Thirty
Django Unchained
Les Miserables
Beasts of the Southern Wild

Following the nominations Argo fell from equal favouritism with Lincoln to be beneath Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Life of Pi and even Amour, but in the ensuing weeks - with wins at the Golden Globes, SAG, PGA, DGA and BAFTA - it has returned to heavy favouritism. But will this translate into a win, despite the fact that Affleck didn't receive a nomination? It is looking very likely. Looking through each of Argo's other nominations, I'm not sure it is going to win any of them. It 'could' take out Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Film Editing (well, it's got this one) and Adapted Screenplay, and if it did I can see justification in the Best Picture win. I can also see Lincoln (Adapted, Supporting Actor, Actor and Director), Silver Linings Playbook (Adapted, Supporting Actor, Actress and Director), Life of Pi (Visual Effects, Cinematography, Score and Director) and Zero Dark Thirty (Editing, Original and Actress) making claims for Best Picture. I'm pretty sure Argo will take it out - I have come to learn how this race works - and though I now favour others, that's fine with me.

Head over to Graffiti With Punctuation for the rest of my predictions. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

New Releases (14/02/13)

West of Memphis - From director Amy Berg, in collaboration with first time Producers Damien Echols and Lorri Davis along with filmmakers Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh comes West of Memphis, a powerful examination of a catastrophic failure of justice in Arkansas. The documentary tells the hitherto unknown story behind an extraordinary and desperate fight to bring the truth to light. Told and made by those who lived it, Berg's unprecedented access to the inner workings of the defense, allows the film to show the investigation, research and appeals process in a way that has never been seen before; revealing shocking and disturbing new information about a case that still haunts the American South.

Anna Karenina - The third collaboration of Academy Award nominee Keira Knightley with acclaimed director Joe Wright, following the award-winning box office successes Pride & Prejudice and Atonement, is a bold, theatrical new vision of the epic story of love, adapted from Leo Tolstoy's timeless novel by Academy Award winner Tom Stoppard. The story powerfully explores the capacity for love that surges through the human heart. As Anna (Ms. Knightley) questions her happiness and marriage, change comes to all around her.

The Sweeney - Tearing up the streets of London, The Sweeney is a stylish, exhilarating action thriller proving sometimes you have to act like a criminal to catch a criminal. Armed and dangerous, the Sweeney Flying Squad are old school crime fighters enforcing the law. Led by legendary detective Jack Regan (Ray Winstone) and his loyal partner, they have their own unique way of operating and always get results. With a bank heist in progress and his old enemy making a reappearance on the London crime scene, Regan will do whatever it takes to get the job done, even defying orders from his no-nonsense boss (Damian Lewis).  

Safe Haven - An affirming and suspenseful story about a young woman's struggle to love again, Safe Haven is based on the novel from Nicholas Sparks, the best-selling author behind the hit films The Notebook and Dear John. When a mysterious young woman arrives in a small North Carolina town, her reluctance to join the tight knit community raises questions about her past. Slowly, she begins putting down roots, and gains the courage to start a relationship with Alex, a widowed store owner with two young children. But dark secrets intrude on her new life with such terror that she is forced to rediscover the meaning of sacrifice and rely on the power of love in this moving romantic thriller.

Weekly Recommendation: West of Memphis. No film this year so far - not even Django Unchained - was as anticipated as this. A documentary probing further into the case of the West Memphis Three, now released after over a decade in prison. Their story was chronicled in the extraordinarily powerful Paradise Lost trilogy, but this provides further insight into the case, and examines new-found evidence. Produced by one of the imprisoned, Damien Echols. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Review: I Give It A Year (Dan Mazer, 2013)

I Give It A Year hits cinemas February 28.

Dan Mazer (the writer of Borat and Bruno) makes his directorial debut with a bawdy and irreverent romantic comedy, I Give It A Year, packing this sharply observant insight into the realities of a young marriage with plenty of hilariously awkward sketches. The characters are likable, with Rafe Spall’s bumbling klutz the most idiotic but endearing of them all, the writing is genuinely funny and Mazer even attempts to subvert the genre while aware of adhering to the most obnoxious of tropes.

Sparks fly between Nat (Rose Byrne), an ambitious PR, and Josh (Spall), a housebound novelist working on his sophomore piece, after meeting at a party. Much to the shock of their family and friends, who have already spotted the mismatch, they are married within the year. Everyone fears the worst, questioning whether they will survive their differences and make it through the notoriously tumultuous first year of married life. Suffering from writer’s block and cabin fever, Josh reunites with ex-girlfriend Chloe (Anna Faris), who left their relationship for a multi-year international humanitarian  venture, and Nat finds herself removing her wedding ring for the purposes of flirting with a handsome, high-profile American client, Guy (Simon Baker), only to find reciprocated fascination. These attractive alternatives result in the couple’s trials and tribulations, forcing them to consider the life-changing decision.

Continue reading at Graffiti With Punctuation

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Review: Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (Tommy Wirkola, 2013)

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is a blend of fantasy adventure and horror, and a reworking of the Grimm Brothers fairy tale ‘Hansel and Gretel’. Written and directed by Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow), a product of the Gary Sanchez Productions (Will Ferrell and Adam McKay), Hansel and Gretel is a brainless sometimes-fun splatter fest about sibling witch hunters who are hired to rid a village of a witch plague and find eleven abducted children. I have a very vague memory of the fairytale (something about breadcrumbs and a gingerbread house?) but this unnecessarily gratuitous slasher version (which pushes the rating into MA territory, eliminating the accessibility to part of the clear target audience) has lots of unpleasant things - witches, trolls, Sabbaths, a disposable supporting cast and frequent doses of woman beating.

Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) are the titular orphans who have honed their gun and bow skills (and learned how to be indestructible, seemingly) following their infamous killing of a witch in their youth. Inexplicably left alone in the forest by their parents in the middle of the night they stumble across a house made entirely of candy. Lured in by the sugary delights they find themselves confronted by a witch who locks away Hansel and forces him to devour more treats – resulting in lifelong diabetes and required EpiPen injections – before she is stabbed and burned by Gretel. Following the title sequence, where we are informed about their celebrated professional endeavours and their vengeful bloodlust, we are taken to the small town of Augsburg. Having stopped the town’s Sheriff (Peter Stormare) from wrongly convicting a beautiful woman, Mina (Pihla Viitala), of suspected witchcraft, they are hired by the mayor (Rainor Bock) to seek out and eliminate those responsible for the abduction of the children. Along the way they learn of an approaching Sabbath and uncover some secrets about themselves and their past. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Review: Anna Karenina (Joe Wright, 2012)

In cinemas February 14. 

Director Joe Wright (Atonement, Hanna) and acclaimed playwright Tom Stoppard (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead) have collaborated to bring Leo Tolstoy’s classic 1877 novel, Anna Karenina, an emotional tale of infidelity and Imperial Russian scandal, to the screen. Wright has once again reunited with his muse, Keira Knightley (Pride and Prejudice), and though this is an inventive and visually lush adaptation, it is as awe-inspiringly beautiful in the technical department as the story and the performances are dull, and considering the talented individuals involved, this equates to a disappointing and forgettable experience.

Anna Karenina (Knightley) is a rich socialite lives in St. Petersburg. She is married to Alexei Karenin (Jude Law), an older and much respected statesman. When she is requested by her brother, Prince Stepan Oblonsky (Matthew Macfayden), to journey to Moscow to help him rescue his marriage to his wife, Dolly (Kelly Macdonald), she catches the eye of Count Alexi Vronski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a handsome cavalry officer on leave. After some courting, Anna surrenders herself to his charms and sets in motion an affair that results in her becoming a disrespected outcast and her dutiful husband threatening a messy divorce.

Continue reading at Graffiti With Punctuation.

New Releases (07/02/13)

Lincoln - Steven Spielberg directs Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln, a revealing drama that focuses on the 16th President's tumultuous final months in office. In a nation divided by war and the strong winds of change, Lincoln pursues a course of action designed to end the war, unite the country and abolish slavery. With the moral courage and fierce determination to succeed, his choices during this critical moment will change the fate of generations to come.

Hansel and Gretel: With Hunters - After getting a taste for blood as children, Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) have become the ultimate vigilantes, hell bent on retribution. Now, unbeknownst to them, Hansel and Gretel have become the hunted, and must face an evil far greater than witches...their past.

Elles - A provocative exploration of female sexuality, Elles stars the fearless Juliette Binoche as Anne, a well-off Parisian journalist investigating the lives of two student prostitutes (Joanna Kulig and Anaïs Demoustier) for a magazine article. What begins as a routine assignment, though, quickly turns personal, as Anne is drawn into the lives of these fiercely independent young women and forced to confront her own sexual fears and desires.

Movie 43 - From the twisted minds of producers Peter Farrelly (Hall Pass, Shallow Hal) and Charles Wessler (There's Something About Mary, Dumb and Dumber), comes Movie 43 - the outrageous new ensemble comedy starring some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Movie 43 is not for the easily-offended and contains jaw-dropping, sometimes shockingly disturbing, intertwined story lines you'll have to see to believe.

Weekly Recommendation: With the exception of Oscar favourite Lincoln, which is worth watching for Daniel Day-Lewis' extraordinary portrayal, this is a terrible week of releases. Hansel and Gretel has been panned, and there have been claims that Movie 43 is one of the worst films ever made. It might even make Elles, a provocative but shallow study of student prostitution, look like a masterwork. My suggestion, check out Zero Dark Thirty and Silver Linings Playbook. Or if you have already seen them, Lincoln is this week's only chance. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Monthly Round-Up: January 2013 Viewing

Moving house is tiring and stressful. For the first three weeks of 2013, my life revolved around working at the cinema and moving, with a bit of time in there for watching some films and writing. You might have noticed that there has been less content on the site recently. I just have not had time. I have also been enjoying taking more time to put together my reviews, and I think this is benefiting my writing (at least I hope it is). I have kept pretty busy covering the awards season for Graffiti With Punctuation.

As one of my goals in the new year was to read 10-12 novels/books over the course of the year, I will announce that this month I read "It's Only A Movie" by Mark Kermode, a very entertaining read, and finished off the formerly unfinished "All The Pretty Horses" by Cormac McCarthy.

January has mostly been occupied by catching up with the new releases and the watching the rest of the Academy Award nominees. There are only a couple of new releases I did not see - The Guilt Trip and You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger - but I have had it covered. It has been a terrific start to the year in my opinion. Before watching Life of Pi on January 3, I had seen just four of the nine Best Picture nominees. After watching Lincoln on Tuesday night, I have now seen them all, and have an opinion on just about every category. Keep an eye out for my predictions over the next few weeks. I did catch up with a few interesting films for the first time (Bottle Rocket, 50/50) and revisited some old favourites (The Conformist, Jackie Brown and Black Swan).

Keeping it short and sweet, I have watched 28 Films so far in 2013.

New To Me Films (In Order of Preference)

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

Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans (F. W Murnau, 1927)

Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow, 2012) 

Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell, 2012)

Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino, 2012)

 This is Not A Film (Jafar Panahi, 2012) - A provocative work; a defiance against repression and a fascinating study of an artist unwilling to abandon his craft.

Hell and Back Again (Danfung Dennis, 2011) - Vital and intimate insight into a marine's psyche, conveyed via extraordinary footage from frontline and home rehabilitation. Director/photographer Dennis immerses us in Harris' company, revealing his abilities as a natural leader and struggle to adapt to civilian life.

Life of Pi (Ang Lee, 2012)

Flight (Robert Zemeckis, 2012)

Bottle Rocket (Wes Anderson, 1996) - High energy and a lot of fun, with many hilarious moments. Wilson brothers are great in this surprisingly emotional buddy film. Wes Anderson's first feature film.

ParaNorman (Chris Butler, Sam Fell, 2012) - Smart, conceptually unique, suitably creepy and a lot of fun, ParaNorman makes intelligent horror throwbacks while telling a meaningful tale about social outcasts. Through the angst of the supportable Norman, we learn that the witches and zombies he encounters are less a threat than the living ghouls tormenting him daily. There are some pretty potent messages strung throughout. The voice cast is great too. The actors become the characters and transcended their recognisable voices, a feature not shared by a lot of animated films.

50/50 (Jonathan Levine, 2011) - I enjoyed 50/50. Inspiring tale of a young man faced with life-changing health scare. Scenes between JGL (good form) & Kendrick worked well, but wasn't too keen on Rogan's antics, though he was undeniably amusing at times. Also, Angelica Huston was terrific in a couple of scenes.

Lincoln (Steven Spielberg, 2012) - Daniel Day-Lewis is phenomenal as Abraham Lincoln, completely immersing himself to the point he is unrecognisable. The rest of the film can't complete, but it's worth a look solely for the great man. Tommy Lee Jones is also great, and after a pretty dry opening act, it remains compelling. Terrific screenplay.

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