Monday, February 24, 2014

New Releases (27/02/14)

In cinemas this week: The Wind Rises, Non-Stop, 3 Days to Kill, Out of the Furnace, Gloria, Utopia and Mysteries of the Unseen World. 

In The Wind Rises (Review by Sam McCosh, An Online Universe) Jiro dreams of flying and designing beautiful airplanes, inspired by the famous Italian aeronautical designer Caproni. Nearsighted from a young age and unable to be a pilot, Jiro joins a major Japanese engineering company in 1927 and becomes one of the world's most innovative and accomplished airplane designers. The creator of animated classics like My Neighbor Totoro (1988) and Princess Mononoke (1997), Miayazaki has also been a controversial voice in Japanese media with his strong anti-war/establishment views. The changing political and cultural landscape in Japan, post-Great Kanto Earthquake and pre-World War II provides a rich foundation for Miyazaki to explore Hiro’s aeronautical dreams and engineering feats. I adore Miyazaki’s love for invention and his obsession with how machines function, the details of which have always been carefully included in his films. The motion of flight (Castle in the Sky, Porco Rosso) and the image of machines in action (Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle) has always been an incredibly beautiful element of his animation and are at the heart of this tale. The Wind Rises is a distinctly personal film, a strikingly animated tale of love, inspiration and artistic commitment. ★★★1/2

Global action star Liam Neeson stars in Non-Stop, a suspense thriller played out at 40,000 feet in the air. During a transatlantic flight from New York City to London, U.S. Air Marshal Bill Marks (Neeson) receives a series of cryptic text messages demanding that he instruct the government to transfer $150 million into an off-shore account. Until he secures the money, a passenger on his flight will be killed every 20 minutes. 

3 Days to Kill - In this action-thriller, Kevin Costner is a dangerous international spy, who is determined to give up his high stakes life to finally build a closer relationship with his estranged wife and daughter, whom he's previously kept at arm's length to keep out of danger. But first, he must complete one last mission- even if it means juggling the two toughest assignments yet: hunting down the world's most ruthless terrorist and looking after his teenage daughter for the first time in ten years, while his wife is out of town.

Out of the Furnace - From Scott Cooper, the critically-acclaimed writer and director of Crazy Heart, comes a gripping and gritty drama about family, fate, circumstance, and justice. Russell Baze (Christian Bale) has a rough life: he works a dead-end blue collar job at the local steel mill by day, and cares for his terminally ill father by night. When Russell's brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) returns home from serving time in Iraq, he gets lured into one of the most ruthless crime rings in the Northeast and mysteriously disappears. The police fail to crack the case, so - with nothing left to lose - Russell takes matters into his own hands, putting his life on the line to seek justice for his brother. The impressive cast of Christian Bale and Woody Harrelson are rounded out by Casey Affleck, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe, Zoe Saldana and Sam Shepard.

Gloria - Gloria is a "woman of a certain age" but still feels young. Though lonely, she makes the best of her situation and fills her nights seeking love at social dance clubs for single adults. Her fragile happiness changes the day she meets Rodolfo. Their intense passion, to which Gloria gives her all, leaves her vacillating between hope and despair -- until she uncovers a new strength and realizes that, in her golden years, she can shine brighter than ever. Gloria was Chile's official entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards, and stars Paulina García in a fantastic performance that captured the Silver Bear Best Actress Award at last year's Berlin Film Festival. Mildly enjoyable, well-acted slice-of-life drama about late middle-age fresh starts, sexual rejuvenation and filling the loneliness void. As a small-scale character study, far too long, but I am certainly appreciative of the efforts of all involved and Garcia is great. I remember there being a big stink about it being overlooked for the Foreign Language shortlist. Admirable, but it wouldn't have made my ballot. ★★

Utopia - Utopia is John Pilger's new feature documentary. The BAFTA and Emmy winning film-maker and journalist draws on his long association with the first people of his homeland, Australia. Utopia is both an epic portrayal of the oldest continuous human culture and an investigation into a suppressed colonial past and rapacious present. One of the world's best kept secrets is revealed against a background of the greatest boom in mineral wealth. Has the 'lucky country' inherited South African apartheid? Utopia is both a personal journey and a universal story of power and resistance in the media age driven by old imperatives and presented as liberalism. 

Mysteries of the Unseen World - In the National Geographic tradition of powerful natural-history images and storytelling, this film reveals once-invisible dimensions of nature that are filled with beauty and wonder-and hold secrets crucial to our survival. It shines a fascinating spotlight on objects and events that escape the naked eye every minute of every day. Visually stunning and rooted in cutting-edge research, the film blends high-speed and time-lapse photography, electron microscopy and nanotechnology. ★★★1/2

Weekly Recommendation: Mightily behind this week. I haven't seen either of the action films, nor the largely-ignored Out of the Furnace. I have seen no promotional material at all. The Wind Rises comes with the top recommendation, though it is certainly not as accessible as Miyazaki's previous films. Mysteries of the Unseen World is fascinating, and is a top IMAX experience. I had high hopes for Gloria, but as much as I admired it, I didn't really connect.

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