Tuesday, February 4, 2014

New Releases (06/02/14)

In cinemas this week: RoboCop, Last Vegas, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Labor Day, The Past and Mistaken For Strangers. 

The Past - The latest film from Academy Award-winning director Asghar Farhadi (A Separation). This is a simple story, the collision of two families through the meeting of Marie (Berenice Bejo, The Artist) and Samir (Tahar Rahim, A Prophet). The former is unhappy with her estranged marriage to Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa), who is visiting from Tehran to sign the divorce papers and ensure it ends on good terms. The latter runs a dry cleaning business of which Marie was a regular customer. Samir and his son Faoud (Elyes Aguis) are already living with Marie and her two daughters, Lucie (Pauline Burlet) and Lea (Jeanne Jestin). When Ahmad arrives Marie suggests he stay at the house and he reluctantly obliges. Stuck in a hotbed of stifling awkwardness Ahmad finds himself unwillingly immersed in their tumultuous lives; a passive observer and a rational listener whose guidance and advice is more welcomed than expected. Complex relationships fuel this deeply affecting drama which tackles mental illness, infidelity and youthful naivety wrapped up in a web of misinterpretation and painful truths. With extraordinary and compelling complexity Farhadi dissects the whirlwind of emotional baggage surrounding divorce and proposed re-marriage, and how every member of the family is affected individually. How Farhadi subtly reveals secrets and how they snowball is a writing feat comparable to A Separation, which is about the highest praise I can give. An engrossing drama that shouldn’t be missed. ★★★★1/2

In RoboCop, the year is 2028 and multinational conglomerate OmniCorp is at the center of robot technology. Overseas, their drones have been used by the military for years - and it's meant billions for OmniCorp's bottom line. Now OmniCorp wants to bring their controversial technology to the home front, and they see a golden opportunity to do it. When Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) - a loving husband, father and good cop doing his best to stem the tide of crime and corruption in Detroit - is critically injured in the line of duty, OmniCorp sees their chance to build a part-man, part-robot police officer. OmniCorp envisions a RoboCop in every city and even more billions for their shareholders, but they never counted on one thing: there is still a man inside the machine pursuing justice.

Last Vegas - The ensemble comedy follows four old friends who decide to throw a Las Vegas bachelor party for the only one of them who has remained single. Stars Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro and Kevin Kline. 

Labor Day - Centers on 13-year-old Henry Wheeler, who struggles to be the man of his house and care for his reclusive mother Adele while confronting all the pangs of adolescence. On a back-to-school shopping trip, Henry and his mother encounter Frank Chambers, a man both intimidating and clearly in need of help, who convinces them to take him into their home and later is revealed to be an escaped convict. The events of this long Labor Day weekend will shape them for the rest of their lives.

Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom - Based on South African President Nelson Mandela's autobiography of the same name, which chronicles his early life, coming of age, education and 27 years in prison before becoming President and working to rebuild the country's once segregated society. Idris Elba stars as Nelson Mandela with Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl) directing.

Mistaken For Strangers - In 2010, the rock band The National released their fifth album, High Violet. After ten years as critical darlings, the band was finally enjoying wider recognition. As they were about to embark on the biggest tour of their career, lead singer Matt Berninger invited his younger brother, Tom, to be a part of their tour crew. A budding filmmaker and horror movie enthusiast, Tom brought along his camera to film the experience. Mistaken For Strangers is an entertaining documentary. The concert footage is electric, it is frequently funny and of course the music is great. What can’t be overlooked is that a portion of the 80 minute run time is the editing process bleeding into the film. You admire Tom’s courage to be honest about his inadequacy as a filmmaker, but the film is nonetheless, disappointing. ★★1/2

Weekly Recommendation: The Past was one of last year's most satisfying films. Another masterpiece from Farhadi. I am so glad that Australian audiences have the chance to see the film. The only other release I have seen is Mistaken For Strangers, which suffers when there is an absence of live concert footage. I'm not particularly interested in anything else this week - Labor Day looks awful, and I haven't seen the original RoboCop - but I will see Mandela for Idris Elba.  

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