Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Monthly Round-up: July Viewing

A much quieter month, July. I have been working full time and this has been limiting my chance to not only watch films, but also write about them. I have had to prioritise which ones to focus on - resulting in just eight feature reviews this month. I have also become more interested in reading novels, finding it very relaxing. I have almost completed six novels, which is about the same amount I have read all year.

In July I watched a total of 29 films.

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

Much Ado About Nothing (Joss Whedon, 2013) - Very entertaining. The purity of Shakespeare's language, which is an absolute pleasure to listen to, entwined with plentiful humour and tragedy. Stellar comic performances from Joss Whedon's likable ensemble bring this tale of unlikely love and villainous conspiracy to life. Unwavering energy and hilarity. Highly recommended.

The Killing of A Chinese Bookie (John Cassavetes, 1976) - My introduction to Cassavetes' filmmaking. Wow, what a film. Ben Gazzara is brilliant. A plunge into sleazy 70s underground profiteering as a club owner finds himself owing the mob a debt - coerced into a suicide hit.

The Way Way Back (Nat Faxon, Jim Rash, 2013) - An utterly delightful coming-of-age tale with themes of familial unraveling and adolescent social dislocation that evokes amused guffaws and a fulfilled heart in equal measure. I left a happy man. Top cast, but it is Sam Rockwell who especially excels.

The World's End (Edgar Wright, 2013) - Full-throttle action, inebriated hilarity, a surprisingly affecting dramatic edge and curve-balls aplenty. Loved a lot about it, but with so many elements to consider, does it all gel as well as the individual scenes stand out? Another viewing imperative. 

Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola, 2006) - Coppola's wonderfully vibrant and decadent take on French royal court etiquette and the defiant teen princess. Dunst is terrific. Love the sound design and the s/track choices work well, especially the use of Gang of Four's 'Natural's Not In It' in the opening credits.

Pacific Rim (Guillermo Del Toro, 2013) TWICE - Yes, it is an enormously epic struggle between giant robots and monsters, but the human characters are essential and form the heart of this pretty incredible film. Strong performances from Elba, Hunnam, Kikuchi and Day give this supportable human resistance a lift. It is a jaw dropping sensory experience (duh) - edge-of-your-seat intense, genuinely emotional and has plenty of odd humour that fits in well. So unlike, say, Man of Steel it is action packed AND entertaining. My favourite of this year's Blockbuster crop, and quite substantially. Had a great time.

Gimme the Loot (Adam Leon, 2012) - An entertaining NYC-set story of two youngsters who face repeated foils in pursuit of a unique but meaningful experience. The two actors share an impeccable and natural chemistry, and their desperate caper is endearing.

To The Wonder (Terrence Malick, 2013) - Poetic and beautiful tragedy entwined with tales of faith. Perhaps Malick's least successful image tapestry, but a hell of a lot to like.

-------- Essential Viewing -------- 

Review: The Way Way Back (Jim Rash and Nat Faxon, 2013)

Jim Rash and Nat Faxon, Academy Award winners in collaboration with Alexander Payne on The Descendants, have co-written and directed this tender, summer set coming-of-age tale. Teasing an audience to reflect on their own awkward teenage years, The Way Way Back blends uplifting optimism with an accurate portrayal of youthful melancholy, intelligently capturing the confusing adolescent emotions we can all relate to. This may be facing unease with the introduction of a stranger to the family, feeling rejected by someone you thought cared for you and dealing with a lack of self-esteem.

The screenplay’s plentiful warmth and charm and the terrific ensemble – with Sam Rockwell, especially, in outstanding form – help to easily surmount any predictable outcomes one may have been expecting, despite a couple of scenes too conveniently written to register plausibly.

Fourteen-year-old Duncan (Liam James), a socially awkward boy saddened by his parents recent divorce, has been dragged along to a small seaside town for the summer. His mother Pam (Toni Collette) has an imposing new boyfriend, Trent (Steve Carrell), who has his own wild child daughter (Zo Levin) and whose summerhouse will serve as their lodging. Duncan is consistently at odds with Trent, struggles to fit in with the other kids, and finds himself removed from his mother, who spends most of her time with Trent and his friends (amongst them Allison Janney, Amanda Peet and Rob Corrdry). Though befriending Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb) the girl staying next door, Duncan’s life begins to change when he meets Owen (Rockwell), the manager of a water park called Water Wizz. Soon enough he begins to come out of his shell when he is hired as an employee.

Continue reading at Graffiti With Punctuation

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

New Releases (01/08/13)

In cinemas this week: The World's End, The Way Way Back, 100 Bloody Acres and Greetings From Tim Buckley. 

The World's End - The third installment of director Edgar Wright's trilogy of comedies starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, following the successes "Shaun of the Dead" (2004) and "Hot Fuzz" (2007). 20 years after attempting an epic pub crawl, five childhood friends reunite when one of them becomes hellbent on trying the drinking marathon again. They are convinced to stage an encore by Gary King (Simon Pegg), a 40-year-old man trapped at the cigarette end of his teens, who drags his reluctant pals to their hometown and once again attempts to reach the fabled pub - The World's End. As they attempt to reconcile the past and present, they realize the real struggle is for the future, not just theirs but humankind's. Reaching The World's End is the least of their worries.

The Way Way Back - The funny and poignant coming of age story of 14-year-old Duncan's (Liam James) summer vacation with his mother, Pam (Toni Collette), her overbearing boyfriend, Trent (Steve Carell), and his daughter, Steph (Zoe Levin). Having a rough time fitting in, the introverted Duncan finds an unexpected friend in gregarious Owen (Sam Rockwell), manager of the Water Wizz water park. Through his funny, clandestine friendship with Owen, Duncan slowly opens up to and begins to finally find his place in the world - all during a summer he will never forget. Link to Cam Williams' review at Graffiti With Punctuation.

100 Bloody Acres - Brothers Reg and Lindsay Morgan are struggling to keep their organic blood and bone fertilizer business in motion. Their secret "recipe" for success (using dead car crash victims in their product) was a huge boom to business, but lately supply has been gravely low. Months have passed since their last find, and an important new customer is now waiting on a delivery. When junior partner Reg stumbles upon 3 travelers stranded on a remote country road, he cooks up a radical solution to their problem, and a way of finally gaining the respect of his bossy big brother. But when Reg starts to fall for Sophie, one of the intended victims, things get complicated. The Cairnes' brothers witty horror-comedy blends sly Australian humor, gory fun, and a clever storyline that gives "recycling" a whole new context. Link to Ash Beks' review at The Last Podcast Show

Greetings From Tim Buckley - In 1991, a young musician named Jeff Buckley (Penn Badgley) rehearses for his public singing debut at a Brooklyn tribute concert for his father, the late folk singer Tim Buckley. Struggling with the legacy of a man he barely knew, Jeff finds solace in a relationship with an enigmatic young woman (Imogen Poots) working at the show. As they explore New York City, their adventures recall glimpses of Tim's (Ben Rosenfield) own 60s heyday, as he drives cross-country with a girlfriend and finds himself on the verge of stardom. Leading up to the now-legendary show that launched Jeff's own brilliant career, Greetings From Tim Buckley is a poignant mirror portrait of father and son, two of the most beloved singer-songwriters of their generations.  

Weekly Recommendation: 'The Way Way Back' and 'The World's End' are essential this week. Both are excellent, though I am still processing the latter and unsure to what I extent I like it. Right now it sits behind 'Shaun of the Dead' and 'Hot Fuzz' but time will tell. You can skip 'Greetings From Tim Buckley' altogether. I rarely found myself gripped by the rock biopic. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Review: Gimme the Loot (Adam Leon, 2013)

Gimme the Loot won the Grand Jury Prize at SXSW in 2012 and writer/director Adam Leon was nominated for Best First Feature and the Someone to Watch Award at the 2013 Independent Spirit Awards. These worthy accolades have just been the beginning, as this authentic, energetic and small-scale caper comedy has continued to win over audiences. Branded with it’s own language it has current appeal and is sure to please at this year’s Possible Worlds Festival.

In this NYC-set story of two teens who face repeated foils in their determined pursuit of a unique experience – exerting revenge against a rival graffiti gang by tagging a landmark at the New York Mets stadium – the success rests on Leon’s verite style, street-smart writing, and the natural chemistry between the impressive leads. They share an impeccable rapport, their increasing desperation resulting in a series of unexpected events that contribute to this taut, wholesomely endearing and joyously entertaining adventure.

Continue reading at Graffiti With Punctuation

Friday, July 26, 2013

Festival News: Eighth Annual Possible Worlds Film Festival

The eighth annual Possible Worlds Film Festival has revealed its 2013 program showcasing the best new cinema from Canada and the United States, and focusing exclusively on independent films.

Presented by Cosmos Tours and non-profit The Festivalists, the festival bring 20 new feature films – ten Canadian and ten American - to Dendy Opera Quays and Dendy Newtown from 8th to 18th August.

The Festival will open with Sarah Polley’s acclaimed documentary STORIES WE TELL and close ten days later with the Sydney premiere of Joe Swanberg’s DRINKING BUDDIES, starring Olivia Wilde, Anna Kendrick, Jake Johnson and Ron Livingston.

A strong thematic strand within the program this year is the female point of view, with ten titles featuring a woman in the lead and charting female perspectives on identity, desire, sexuality, success and family, such as black and white gems FRANCES HA by Noah Baumbach and YOU MAKE ME FEEL SO YOUNG by Zach Weintraub. Four of these films, MOLLY MAXWELL, STORIES WE TELL, A TEACHER and IT FELT LIKE LOVE are directed by women.

Special guest Steve Ostrow will present the Sydney premiere of CONTINENTAL, a new documentary by Malcolm Ingram. Ostrow was the founder of the Continental, a controversial gay bathhouse that transcended sexual identity and acted as a beacon to the hip, beautiful and infamous in 1960s and 70s New York City.

Other highlights include THE END OF TIME by master documentarian Peter Mettler, and the Australian premieres of NORTHERN LIGHT, which charts the daily lives of families in recession-ravaged Michigan; LUNARCY!, a portrait of eccentrics and visionaries obsessed with the Moon; THE FRUIT HUNTERS, which follows foodies in search of rare fruit around the globe; and REWIND THIS!, a love letter to the VHS tape, which will be paired in a double feature with a 40th anniversary screening of sci-fi/western WESTWORLD.

THE WAIT, starring Chloe Sevigny and Jena Malone, will have its international premiere. The Festival will be a chance for audiences to discover new independent films such as Sean Garrity’s hilarious MY AWKWARD SEXUAL ADVENTURE, Zach Clark’s raunchy Christmas movie WHITE REINDEER (reviewed at Graffiti With Punctuation), Jason Buxton’s coming-of-age drama, BLACKBIRD and Adam Leon’s NYC caper, GIMME THE LOOT.

Many screenings will include a complimentary welcome drink on arrival. For more information, visit

WHEN: August 8 -18 (Sydney) and August 21 – 23 (Canberra)
WHERE: Dendy Circular Quay, Dendy Newtown and Arc Cinema
SYDNEY TICKETS: Adult $16, Concession $13Bookings:
CANBERRA TICKETS: Adult $11, Concession/Student $9 – Bookings: 02 6248 2000

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Review: Behind the Candelabra (Steven Soderbergh, 2013)

Produced by HBO, the network on which it aired in May shortly after its grand premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, Behind the Candelabra is a biopic chronicling the final ten years in the life of flamboyant world-renowned entertainer, Liberace, and his secretive love affair with the much younger Scott Thorson. Directed by Steven Soderbergh (Magic Mike, Side Effects) and written by Richard LaGravenese, the story is adapted from Thorson’s memoir from 1988, Behind the Candelabra: My Life With Liberace, and features outstanding performances from Michael Douglas and Matt Damon.

It is in 1977 that 17-year-old Scott Thorson (Damon), then working as an animal trainer for movies, is introduced to Valentino Liberace (Douglas), the extravagant glittery jacket-attired pianist and entertainer, who takes an immediate liking to the young man. Liberace invites Thorson, and his Hollywood producer friend Bob Black (Scott Bakula), backstage following one of his Vegas shows and then to his luxurious home. After offering to treat Liberace’s dog for temporary blindness, Thorson agrees to move inat his request, becoming his assistant-come-lover. Over time a rift begins to develop, brought on by Thorson’s difficulty in adapting to the lifestyle, including drug abuse and excessive plastic surgery, and Liberace’s selfish promiscuity, which causes the two to grow bitter and part.

Continue reading at Graffiti With Punctuation

Review: Last Days Here (Don Argott and Demian Fenton, 2012)

Last Days Here, directed by Don Argott and Demian Fenton, focuses on Bobby Liebling, the frontman for Virginian cult metal band, Pentagram. As one of the pioneers of doom metal, they founded in 1971. Since then, Bobby has remained the band’s songwriter and lead singer, but a debilitating decade-spanning drug addiction (to everything) has resulted in sporadic creativity and a high rotation of disgruntled band members. Bobby’s once-promising career has been marred by his addiction, which has robbed him of every opportunity his talents could have built for the band. While the documentary is a little flabby and thin on material documenting Pentagram’s peak years – they were an underground sensation in the 70’s, but their first album wasn’t recorded until 1985 - it makes for an inspiring story of overcoming very serious hurdles to recapture a lost dream.

Much of the film is set in the present day – a shooting period that began in 2007 – with Bobby living in his parent’s basement, and doing little but indulging in a concoction of hard drugs. He is a mess. He has hit rock bottom and many believe his death is not far away. This footage, which is not shy of capturing him at his lowest, is difficult to watch. He is awfully thin and believes that he has parasites beneath his skin, which he relentlessly picks at. Bobby’s close friend and manager, Sean “Pellet” Pelletier, became a fan of Pentagram ever since one of their albums, which he blindly picked up at a record sale, completely changed his life. He decides that he wants to help Bobby overcome his addiction, resurrect his health and his passion and return to the stage while he still has the chance.

The filmmakers talk with Bobby’s parents, who are adamant that their son has more to offer, but are seemingly helpless at persevering him to clean up his life, as well as several former band members who are being considered for Pellet’s reunion tour and album. They reflect on their experiences with Bobby, and it is unfortunate to learn that most of them aren’t flattering. It is understandable why these guys are reluctant to be involved with someone who is so unreliable. Accompanying these accounts are an assortment of amateur videos of some of the key events, and one particularly unconvincing recreation, where the ragtag youngsters have the chance to rock in the presence of Kiss, but the neighbours of the apartment intervened because of the noise.

On top of the drug-related drama – Bobby eventually spends some time in rehab and tries hard to remain clean – he meets and falls in love a much younger woman named Hallie. But a mere five weeks after he moves in with her she leaves and ends up placing a restraining order on Bobby, who continues to call her incessantly. While Pellet has been working so hard to set up gigs, putting in his own time and money and convincing other financiers to help too, Bobby is falling apart because of this girl and threatening to relapse. It is devastating to watch, and because we predominantly follow Pellet we see just how selfless he was through all of this. He saved Bobby’s life. When we see the tears streaming from his eyes during the closing concert, we feel for the man. Many believed that Bobby still had talent, but it was wasting away. Pellet, as devoted a fan as they come, took on the challenge alone and Bobby Liebling is alive to this day.

My Rating: ★★1/2

Last Days Here is set to have a DVD release this week through Antidote Films.

Review: Much Ado About Nothing (Joss Whedon, 2013)

There is something irresistibly charming about this sumptuous romantic comedy; a surprisingly perfect match between the creator of Buffy and the director of The Avengers and the incomparable work of William Shakespeare. It is hard to find any of the Bard’s works that haven’t been adapted to death, but Whedon has made this version his own and should please even the most devoted Shakespeare purists. With the interesting stylistic decision to photograph the film in black and white, Whedon also utilised his own home over the course of a slim twelve-day shoot. Most of the cast is made up of Whedon’s friends and actors he has worked with on previous projects.

Leonato (Clark Gregg), the governor of Messina, is visited by his friend Don Pedro (Reed Diamond) who is returning from a victorious campaign against his rebellious brother Don John (Sean Maher). Accompanying Don Pedroare two of his officers, Benedick (Alexis Denisof) and Claudio (Fran Kranz). While in Messina, Claudio falls for Leonato’s daughter, Hero (Jillian Morgese), while Benedick and Leonato’s niece, Beatrice (Amy Acker), find themselves at odds in a series of verbal sparring matches. The budding love between Claudio and Hero prompts Don Pedro to arrange a marriage to unite the two, while he, with the help of Leonato, Claudio and Hero, attempts to trick Benedick and Beatrice into falling in love. Don John, with the help of his villainous allies, starts a plot against the happy couple.

Continue reading at Graffiti With Punctuation

Monday, July 22, 2013

New Releases (25/07/13)

New in cinemas this week: The Wolverine, Behind the Candelabra and What's In A Name?

The Wolverine - Hugh Jackman returns as Wolverine in this sequel to the member of the X-Men's first solo outing. Mark Bomback and Christopher McQuarrie pen the script, which takes inspiration from the Chris Claremont/Frank Miller Marvel miniseries from the 1980s dealing with the character's adventures in Japan as he fights ninjas in the ceremonial garb of the samurai.

Behind the Candelabra - Before Elvis, before Elton John and Madonna, there was Liberace: virtuoso pianist, outrageous entertainer and flamboyant star of stage and television. A name synonymous with showmanship, extravagance and candelabras, he was a world-renowned performer with a flair that endeared him to his audiences and created a loyal fan base spanning his 40-year career. Liberace lived lavishly and embraced a lifestyle of excess both on and off stage. In summer 1977, handsome young stranger Scott Thorson walked into his dressing room and, despite their age difference and seemingly different worlds, the two embarked on a secretive five-year love affair. Steven Soderbergh's HBO production takes a behind-the-scenes look at their tempestuous relationship - their first meeting backstage at the Vegas Hilton to their bitter and public break-up. Link to Cameron Williams' review at Graffiti With Punctuation. 

What's In A Name - Vincent (Patrick Bruel), a successful 40-something, is about to become a father for the first time. He is invited for dinner by his sister and brother-in-law (Valérie Benguinui and Charles Berling), where they catch up with a childhood friend (Guillaume de Tonquédec). While waiting for Vincent’s wife (Judith El Zein), always behind schedule, the dinner guests gleefully bombard Vincent with questions on his fast-approaching fatherhood. But when his hosts ask Vincent what name he has chosen for this future offspring, his response plunges the family into chaos. This stage-to-screen comedy was a box-office smash in France.

Weekly Recommendation: I am sure 'What's In A Name' is reasonably entertaining but it feels like just another 'French film', and will likely get lost in the shuffle. I was bored throughout 'The Wolverine', rarely enthralled by the action, unmoved by the drama, and put off by the unnecessary 3D. The top pick this week is 'Behind the Candelabra', which was itself a disappointment, personally. Phenomenal performances from Michael Douglas and Matt Damon and the honest portrayal of Liberace's extravagant private life are worth the admission, but I felt the film, admittedly overlong, begins to lose some spark following a drastic shift in tone.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Review: White Reindeer (Zach Clark, 2013)

White Reindeer is screening at the 8th Possible Worlds Festival of American and Canadian Cinema, which runs between 8-18 August at Dendy Opera Quays and Dendy Newtown. Ticket purchases and program information can be found here (link:

Written, directed and edited by provocative indie filmmaker, Zach Clark (Rock and Roll Eulogy, Modern Love is Automatic and Vacation!, which I will now endeavour to seek out), White Reindeer is a beguiling Christmas film that takes on peculiar odds. Set in pristine suburban Virginia, the fake veneer of brightly coloured festive accessories used to stifle the dark and sombre mood is doubly a comment on the spirit of the holiday and the protagonist’s compensation for the loss of her infectious holiday cheer. Clark’s film is populated with an ensemble of strange and sympathetic characters and is both a darkly comic look at American suburbia and a quietly devastating character study. Embalmed with enough sweetness, pathos and awkward humour to lighten the mood, White Reindeer jabs at our emotions, to profound effect, without being extraordinary.

Continue reading at Graffiti With Punctuation.

Friday, July 19, 2013

July Mini Reviews: The Lone Ranger, We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks, The Heat and This is the End

We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks (July 4) - A sprawling data-heavy exposé on much more than Julian Assange and his highly controversial organization. Gibney's extensive work to put this film together is impressive and he has clearly traced a lot of avenues and tried inventive ways to energize the material. The immorality of deciding what to publicly reveal and keep harboured up is a provocative angle, and with Assange gallivanting around Norfolk with future Australian government aspirations and Manning suffering from dire treatment in prison, viewers will leave divided on whether this is justice. But, having processed so much information, felt next-to-nothing and left feeling quite conflicted about the whole affair, this emotionally vacant documentary falls well short of Gibney’s best work (see Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God), losing focus by following tangents that are interesting but limit the film's overall impact. ★★1/2

The Lone Ranger (July 4) - Despite a few exciting chases and complex set pieces - the best of which took over two hours to arrive - The Lone Ranger is an overlong and bewilderingly uneven Western adventure. To the point of Hans Zimmer incorporating Morricone's score from 'Once Upon A Time in the West', director Gore Verbinski channels 'every' genre trope, to its detriment, and it is tonally erratic. Too dark and violent for kids and too silly for adults, certainly concerning family viewing. The story is convoluted, the titular hero is an unlikable buffoon, and there are some awful performances (leads Depp, Hammer included). Avoid. ★★

The Heat (July 11) - It was a struggle for lengthy stretch but this crass female buddy cop comedy wasn't so bad in the end. I mean, the trailer was atrocious. McCarthy's wild free reign as a rough-as-guts Boston cop grew quickly grating, but I enjoyed Bullock's work as an ambitious, straight-laced FBI agent. Also, Marlon Wayans has an interesting supporting role. Far too long, and in Feig (director of the enormously overrated Bridesmaids) fashion the gags are very inconsistent, with some hits soon becoming aggravating when drawn out as long as they are. When the pair willingly partner up, instead of being at each others throats, the story does possess some heart and is far more watchable, but not enough to recommend with any enthusiasm. ★★

This is the End (July 18) - The premise alone should be worth the investment - a giant party at James Franco's house, with guests including Michael Cera and Emma Watson - but the laughs are big and consistent from beginning to end with the interruption of an Apocalypse. The dynamic amongst the survivors at Franco-house - Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride - is ripe with moronic antics, self deprecating lunacy and a plethora of nods to the actors' work and public personas, as well as weaving a narrative that stresses the importance of friendship, despite selfish celebrity status often clouding it. Will this group put their differences aside and earn their survival? ALL of the cast have their moment to shine, and though a bit long, there are many terrific sequences. You'll know the ones.  ★★★★

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

New Releases 18/07/13

New in cinemas this week, and it is a strong one, are Before Midnight, Only God Forgives, This is the End and The Conjuring.

Before Midnight - The anticipated sequel to Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004), set nine years later. Like its predecessors, the film was directed by Richard Linklater, who shares screenplay credit with both stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, who make their return as Jesse and Celine.

Only God Forgives - Julian (Ryan Gosling), a respected figure in the criminal underworld of Bangkok, runs a Thai boxing club and smuggling ring with his brother Billy. Billy is suddenly murdered and their crime lord matriarch, Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas) arrives from London to bring back the body. When Jenna forces Julian to settle the score with his brother's killers, Julian finds himself in the ultimate showdown.

This is the End - Follows six friends - Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson and James Franco - trapped at Franco's house after a series of strange and catastrophic events devastate Los Angeles. As the world unravels outside, dwindling supplies and cabin fever threaten to tear apart the friendships inside. Eventually, they are forced to leave the house, facing their fate and the true meaning of friendship and redemption. Link to Sam McCosh's review at An Online Universe.

The Conjuring - Before there was Amityville, there was Harrisville. "The Conjuring" tells the true story of Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga), world renowned paranormal investigators, who were called to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in a secluded farmhouse. Forced to confront a powerful demonic entity, the Warrens find themselves caught in the most horrifying case of their lives. Link to Nick Brodie's review at Graffiti With Punctuation.

Weekly Recommendation: A very strong week. Not everyone has reacted positively to Nicolas Winding Refn's latest as I, but for the stylistic artistry and the textured atmosphere created, it is one you shouldn't miss. Before Midnight comes recommended for obvious reasons. Simply, it is every bit as incredible as the preceding pair and the conclusion (?) to one of the greatest trilogies ever created. I have also heard little but high praise for This is the End, which on premise alone had me sold. An Only God Forgives/The Conjuring double and you may never sleep again.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Review: Pacific Rim (Guillermo Del Toro, 2013)

When we first learned of the premise behind Guillermo Del Toro’s new film – giant robots controlled by humans battling enormous monsters that have entered through a crevasse in the Pacific Ocean – I’m sure it wasn’t hard for many to roll their eyes in dismissal. Admittedly my enthusiasm cooled too, considering the absence of the human characters from the promotional material, which made it look like another loud CGI slugfest. But, the master director of Cronos, Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth has made this project his own and transformed this epic apocalyptic struggle into the most visually sophisticated, heroic and entertaining blockbuster of the year, and quite substantially so. Co-written by Del Toro and Travis Beacham based on a story by the latter.

In opposition to the season’s other major blockbuster, Zach Snyder’s brooding, poorly paced and generally dull Man of Steel, this takes advantage of a lighter tone and a unique brand of humour that fits into De Toro’s world, while ensuring we grow to care about the characters and the sacrifices they make along the way. Comparisons will be made to Michael Bay's Transformers series, which is very unfair. I can safely assure you, this is a cut above those abominations.

To oppose an invasion of the Kaiju, gargantuan other-realm monsters who enter from a portal on the Pacific Ocean floor, humanity united to create giant mecha robots called Jaegers. Controlled by two human pilots, who share the psychological load by drifting their minds together via a neural bridge, they achieved success in fighting off the repeated swarms that wreaked destruction across the globe. In the latter stages of the war, with the Jaeger program shut down and alternative methods of protection put in place, a team of resistance fighters led by Marshall Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) commence a desperate attempt to defeat the Kaiju. Partnering up to pilot famous Jaeger, Gypsy Danger, are a washed-up former pilot (Charlie Hunnam), and an enthusiastic rookie (Rinki Kikuchi). Giving support are an Australian father and son pilot team (Robert Kazinsky and Max Martini), a pair of eccentric scientists (Charlie Day and Burn Gorman) and Marshall’s veteran Jaeger technician (Clifton Collins Jr.).

Friday, July 12, 2013

Review: To The Wonder (Terrence Malick, 2013)

To The Wonder, the latest cinematic endeavour from the great Terrence Malick (writer/director of Badlands, The Thin Red Line, The Tree of Life), is a serene and poetic romantic drama, entwined with stories of the deconstruction and repair of faith. It is a carefully considered and beautifully photographed film that displays all of Malick’s gifts as a visual storyteller. He focuses directly on the search for unique spiritual contentment and the emotional aspects of both falling in love and experiencing the diminishment of that splendour.

Malick’s style is a difficult one to absorb and embrace, and in no way is this film going to please everyone, particularly viewers starting out with To The Wonder. Some will be running for the exit within minutes while others will be captivated by the graceful flow of striking visuals, the natural screen existence of the actors portraying these characters and the moments of immense beauty that accompany the provocative emotional developments. A shorter, more linear, and less ambitious work than The Tree of Life, this closer focus in some ways makes this film more accessible, but as the scope is reduced, ultimately offers a little less for the audience to connect with.

Continue reading at Graffiti With Punctuation

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Review: Before Midnight (Richard Linklater, 2013)

DISCLAIMER: If you have not yet seen Richard Linklater’s extraordinary ‘Before Sunrise’ and ‘Before Sunset’ (and I strongly encourage you to do so) and if you have not yet seen ‘Before Midnight’ and would like to remain completely in the dark, please do not read any further. While I have refrained from delving into too much depth, it is very difficult to discuss this film without giving anything away. Damn near impossible, in fact. Still, as one of the year’s best films so far, and the conclusion to one of the greatest trilogies ever made, this is a film worth doing the prep for.

Directed by Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, Bernie) and written in collaboration with the film’s now-iconic stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, Before Midnight is admittedly a dense and exhausting experience (and at 109 minutes it clocks in at significantly longer than the preceding installments), but also an exhilarating one. Offering up a rollercoaster of emotions in the raw and unflinchingly honest way it deals with a couple at a crossroads – reflecting on how they met and the experiences they have shared, rationally (and irrationally) evaluating their present situations and contemplating their future. Delpy and Hawke have rarely (perhaps never) been better than they are in this film, displaying an incredible range of emotions, and this screenplay, covering an array of themes in thoughtful depth, is perhaps the most impressive of the fine trilogy.

Continue reading at Graffiti With Punctuation.

Monday, July 8, 2013

New Releases (11/07/13)

New in cinemas this Thursday: Pacific Rim, The Heat and Much Ado About Nothing. A quiet week in comparison to recent ones. I guess no distributors wanted to match up against the might of Pacific Rim. I expect Much Ado to fare well in the indie cinemas (Dendy Newtown for instance).

Pacific Rim: When legions of monstrous creatures, known as Kaiju, started rising from the sea, a war began that would take millions of lives and consume humanity's resources for years on end. To combat the giant Kaiju, a special type of weapon was devised: massive robots, called Jaegers, which are controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds are locked in a neural bridge. But even the Jaegers are proving nearly defenseless in the face of the relentless Kaiju. On the verge of defeat, the forces defending mankind have no choice but to turn to two unlikely heroes-a washed up former pilot (Charlie Hunnam) and an untested trainee (Rinko Kikuchi)-who are teamed to drive a legendary but seemingly obsolete Jaeger from the past. Together, they stand as mankind's last hope against the mounting apocalypse. It looks awesome and my anticipation has been mounting. With Guillermo Del Toro at the helm I expect greater emotional involvement than the run-of-the-mill blockbuster, too.

The Heat: Uptight FBI Special Agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) and foul-mouthed Boston cop Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) couldn't be more incompatible. But when they join forces to bring down a ruthless drug lord, they become the last thing anyone expected: buddies. From the director of "Bridesmaids”, Paul Feig. Reactions to this have been surprisingly positive. Link to Chris Elena's review at An Online Universe.

Much Ado About Nothing: Shakespeare's classic comedy is given a contemporary spin in Joss Whedon's film, "Much Ado About Nothing". Shot in just 12 days (and using the original text), the story of sparring lovers Beatrice and Benedick offers a dark, sexy and occasionally absurd view of the intricate game that is love. Heard nothing but great things. Joss Whedon and Shakespeare = a winner. Link to Tom Clift's review at Moviedex.

 Weekly Recommendation: Yet to see any, but I am very excited about 'Much Ado' and 'Pacific Rim'. 

2013 Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) Recommendations

Highly Recommend


Deep Red (Retrospective) – Italian horror maestro, Dario Argento, made a string of giallo and supernatural horror masterpieces in the 70’s and early 80’s. While Suspiria (1977) remains his most famous film, commonly touted as one of the scariest films ever made, it is of my opinion that Deep Red (1975) is his greatest work. David Hemmings (Blowup) stars as Marcus Daly, a pianist and music teacher living in Rome, who investigates the shocking murder of a psychic medium, who lives in Daly’s apartment building. After his desperate attempt to save her fails, he becomes obsessed with finding the murderer. The killer strikes several times, eliminating people who have learned something about their identity, but as Daly digs deeper into the complex web of affairs, he uncovers a sinister secret inside a deserted old house. One feature I adore about this film is the wonderful score composed by prog rock band Goblin (who would become Argento’s primary collaborators, following a disagreement with Ennio Morricone on Four Flies On Grey Velvet). Though Suspiria’s main theme is more famous, perhaps, I don’t think Goblin ever again matched this work. Don’t miss this stunning film on the big screen. It may be the highlight of your MIFF2013 experience.

For Those in Peril – The debut feature from talented writer/director Paul Wright following a number of award-winning shorts, For Those in Peril is a visceral and complex psychological drama with an emotional intensity that continually keeps a viewer guessing. This is a fresh vision from a bold filmmaker who has an interest in telling his stories and provoking his audience with inventive sensory experimentation. From the eerie opening to the unforgettable finale this is a mesmerizing tale pits sea folklore with the personal struggle of a youngster dealing with conflicting emotions of grief and guilt, and facing malevolence for being alive.

Frances Ha – Greta Gerwig delivers an infectiously warm and bubbly performance in Noah Baumbach’s New York-set dramedy about a charming hipster stumbling through a directionless mid-20’s life crisis. Always optimistic about her future and determined to continue to purse her modest artistic aspirations, Frances cannot seem to make anything else work. Barely scraping together enough funds to support her living expenses, and unlucky in her romantic pursuits, her series of misadventures are captured in pleasing black and white photography. Fueled by an energetic soundtrack, Gerwig’s klutzy and awkward pratfalls are a consistent source of humour, earning our sympathy in a way I found Lena Dunham’s Girls characters did not.

Continue reading at Graffiti With Punctuation

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

New Releases (04/07/13)

Opening in cinemas this week: The Lone Ranger, To the Wonder, Reality, A Gun In Each Hand, We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks.

The Lone Ranger - "1869. Starting as strangers on a train into a burgeoning West, John Reid (Armie Hammer) and Tonto (Johnny Depp) are thrust together by greedy transport tycoons, savage criminals, Comanche warriors, tyrannical conservatives and shared tragedy toward their mythic destiny. In the wake of Verbinski’s wonderful and critically lauded animation Rango, he feels desperate to lavish cinematographic adoration on those iconic Western landscapes." - An excerpt from Blake Howard's review (linked) at Graffiti With Punctuation.

To The Wonder - Tells the story of Marina (Kurylenko) and Neil (Affleck), who meet in France and move to Oklahoma to start a life together, where problems soon arise. While Marina makes the acquaintance of a priest and fellow exile (Bardem), who is struggling with his vocation, Neil renews a relationship with a childhood sweetheart, Jane (McAdams). Bold and lyrical, the film is a moving, gorgeously shot exploration of love in its many forms. Written and directed by Terrence Malick. Link to Simon Di Berardino's review at The Last Podcast Show.

Reality - From acclaimed director Matteo Garrone, 'Reality' is a darkly comic look at Luciano, a charming and affable fishmonger whose unexpected and sudden obsession with being a contestant on the reality show "Big Brother" leads him down a rabbit hole of skewed perceptions and paranoia. So overcome by his dream of being on reality TV, Luciano's own reality begins to spiral out of control, making for one of the most compelling tragicomic character studies since Scorsese's 'The King of Comedy'.

We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks - Acclaimed documentarian Alex Gibney ('Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room') takes the reins for this no-holds-barred look at one of the most unusual phenomena of early 21st century media. In 2006, an Iceland-based outfit called The Sunshine Press launched the website As run by Australian Internet activist Julian Assange, the site's mandate involved regularly publishing top-secret documents and covert information, often regarding governments and their respective military operations. As might be expected, this set off a firestorm between those who admired the organization's bravado and resourcefulness, and those who argued, not unjustly, that the dissemination of data regarding such events as the U.S. war in Afghanistan could put untold numbers of lives at risk. Gibney relays the story of the WikiLeaks website from the inside, and moves beyond black and white to penetrate a complex network of activity guided by courage and idealism but also allegedly guilty of ethical insensitivity and hypocrisy.

Weekly recommendation: I am looking forward to Malick's new film, 'To the Wonder', and Garrone's Cannes winner, 'Reality'. Despite having seen 'The Lone Ranger' and 'We Steal Secrets', the latter extremely disappointing, I can offer no recommendations so far this week.  

Monday, July 1, 2013

Favourite Albums of 2013 (So Far)

Honourable Mentions: Muchacho - Phosphorescent, Yeezus – Kanye West, Shaking the Habitual – The Knife, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic – Foxygen, Overgrown – James Blake, Obsidian – Baths

1. Sunbather - Deafhaven

2.  Twelve Reasons To Die – Ghostface Killah

3. mbv – My Bloody Valentine

4. You’re Nothing – Iceage

5. Random Access Memories – Daft Punk

6. The Next Day – David Bowie

7. Monomania – Deerhunter

8. Silence Yourself – Savages

9. Holy Fire – Foals

10. Trouble Will Find Me – The National