Monday, September 30, 2013

Trailer: Captain Phillips

Below is the trailer for Captain Phillips, the new film from director Paul Greengrass (United 93) starring Tom Hanks.

 The true story of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama, the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years.

It hits cinemas October 24, but I am catching it tonight. Stay tuned for thoughts. 

Review: Rush (Ron Howard, 2013)

Rush, directed by Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Frost/Nixon) and written by Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, The Damned United) is a slick looking film that keeps pace with a lot of fast editing and montage. The exciting latter half racing sequences – spectacularly shot by Anthony Dod Mantle, with an understated Hans Zimmer score and some terrific sound design – are the highlight and improve the film significantly following an underwhelming dual insight into the story’s central rivals.

Brit James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Austrian Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) became the fiercest of competitors during the mid 1970’s, with the 1976 F1 season becoming one of the most tumultuous in the sport’s history.  Their intense rivalry – which began at a small-time scuffle at a Formula Three race at the Crystal Palace circuit and eventually pitted two of the leading F1 teams in McLaren and Ferrari against one another – became an industry sensation. Throughout the season their personal lives played a role in their ability to focus on their driving, while suspensions, ongoing arguments about each other’s character, and devastating accidents significantly change the lives of these drivers and their relationship. The series of events – which continue to escalate – are shocking and exhilarating, and Howard has put together a film sure to be universally pleasing.

Continue reading at Graffiti With Punctuation.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Review: Stranger by the Lake (Alain Guiraudie, 2013)

At this year’s Cannes Film Festival Stranger by the Lake was the winner of the Queer Palm, while writer/director Alain Guiraudie was named Best Director in the Un Certain Regard section. It screened at the Queer Screen Film Festival last week, and is scheduled to hit cinemas on limited release next month.

This confronting film pushes some boundaries. The explicit sex scenes (real acts, clearly unsimulated) will likely shock many an audience, but while possessing a handsome visual style, this is as candid a study of the homosexual cruising lifestyle as you are likely to find on screen. It is a tale of desire and lust, companionship and solitude, voyeurism and secrecy, enshrouded by murder. While it isn’t a particularly enjoyable experience – routine and repetition are ingrained in the plot, the laboured middle stretch involving a police investigation less than convincing – one can admire this bold undertaking. The final minutes alone will leave your heart racing.

Continue reading at Graffiti With Punctuation

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mini Review: Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley, 2013)

I had heard a lot of positive reports about Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell following screenings at the Toronto International Film Festival last year. I haven’t seen the Oscar-nominated Away From Her (2006) but as an admirer of her more polarizing follow-up, Take This Waltz (2011), I was happy to hear that the impressive young filmmaker had turned out another winner.

I watched this at the Sydney Film Festival and I’d really like to watch it again in cinemas. My scattered memories aren’t sitting too well, and though I am certainly fond of the film I wasn’t thinking much about it the next day. I can’t help but think that I missed out on an experience shared by many others. 

Stories We Tell is an extraordinarily complex reflection on origin, heritage and family secrets, with Polley taking special interest in holistic collaboration. She asks her family (her father, siblings) and former acquaintances of her late mother to be the subject of an interrogation. She fires off questions about her mother, to begin with, and this would have been a fascinating documentary if it were entirely about her. But, from behind the camera, Polley is in search of something else, and truly understanding her mother is the first step in the process of understanding where she came from and the factors that have built her identity.

These candid interviews are interesting to watch because there is a personal connection already at play; the informality of them makes them pleasurable to watch as well as revelatory. But these accounts are just a fragment of the footage inventively collaborated to paint this portrait. I won’t delve into the other means, because I think the less you know about some things in this film, the better. She probes into the web of intrigue left behind by her mother, and discovers that the path to excavating the truth is not an easy one - along the way it has been layered with myth and her perseverance unlocks some quite shocking secrets.

This is a very personal project, and while I wasn’t hit hard by the film emotionally, its brilliant construction cannot be denied. It is transcendent, poignant, moving and funny. It balances a filmmaker’s personal agenda with a comment on narrative - how the story of our lives can differ depending on the individual recounting, and how this ultimately influences how we live. 

My Rating:

Monday, September 23, 2013

New Releases (26/09/13)

In cinemas this week we have Tim Winton's The Turning, Stories We Tell, Runner Runner, Lovelace and Grown Ups 2 as well as the commencement of the 2013 Reel Anime Film Festival.

The Turning - Tim Winton is the latest Australian vehicle to be mined for multi-platform purposes. Recently we’ve had Patrick White brought to the big screen with The Eye of the Storm and around the same time, Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap was broadcast as a mini-series. Winton’s material isn’t exactly virgin territory—Cloudstreet was adapted into a mini-series for cable in 2011. The winner of roughly a billion awards and Cloudstreet itself topping the 10 Aussie Books You Must Read Before You Die list, it made sense to dig further into the wealth of published material on offer. Excerpt and linked review by Nicholas Brodie, Graffiti With Punctuation.

Stories We Tell - In this inspired, genre-twisting new film, Oscar-nominated writer/director Sarah Polley discovers that the truth depends on who's telling it. Polley is both filmmaker and detective as she investigates the secrets kept by a family of storytellers. She playfully interviews and interrogates a cast of characters of varying reliability, eliciting refreshingly candid, yet mostly contradictory, answers to the same questions. As each relates their version of the family mythology, present-day recollections shift into nostalgia-tinged glimpses of their mother, who departed too soon, leaving a trail of unanswered questions. Polley unravels the paradoxes to reveal the essence of family: always complicated, warmly messy and fiercely loving. Stories We Tell explores the elusive nature of truth and memory, but at its core is a deeply personal film about how our narratives shape and define us as individuals and families, all interconnecting to paint a profound, funny and poignant picture of the larger human story. Linked review by Blake Howard, Graffiti With Punctuation.

Runner Runner - Richie, a Princeton college student who pays for school with on-line gambling, bottoms out and travels to Costa Rica to confront the on-line mastermind, Ivan, whom he believes has swindled him. Ivan sees a kindred spirit in Richie and brings the younger man into his operation. When the stakes get incredibly high and dangerous, and Richie comes to fully understand the deviousness of his new boss, he tries to turn the tables on him. Stars Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake.

Lovelace - In 1972- before the internet, before the porn explosion- Deep Throat was a phenomenon: the first scripted pornographic theatrical feature film, featuring a story, some jokes, and an unknown and unlikely star, Linda Lovelace. Escaping a strict religious family, Linda discovered freedom and the high life when she fell for and married charismatic hustler Chuck Traynor. As Linda Lovelace she became an international sensation - less centerfold fantasy than a charming girl-next-door with an impressive capacity for fellatio. Fully inhabiting her new identity, Linda became an enthusiastic spokesperson for sexual freedom and uninhibited hedonism. Six years later she presented another, utterly contradictory, narrative to the world and herself as the survivor of a far darker story. Linked review by Chris Elena, An Online Universe. 

Grown Ups 2 - This Rotten Tomatoes consensus analysis made me laugh - "while it's almost certainly the movie event of the year for film goers passionate about deer urine humor, Grown Ups 2 will bore, annoy, and disgust audiences of nearly every other persuasion." Grown Ups made a lot of money, so there's an audience for this, it seems.

Weekly Recommendation: I really want to watch the quite extraordinary Stories We Tell again, free of the festival fatigue. I am also looking forward to The Turning, programmed so far for a single week only. It will be great to see so much Australian talent in collaboration together. Throw support their way, I bet you won't regret it. What an ambitious project. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Review: Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen, 2013)

In Blue Jasmine, the latest feature from the great Woody Allen – incredibly, this is his 45th as director – an astounding Cate Blanchett stars as Jasmine, a wealthy socialite living in New York who experiences a tumble down the social ladder when her husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin) - a crooked financier and serial adulterer - gets nabbed by the FBI. What ensues makes not only a serious dent in her material assets – though despite being ‘dead broke’ she does manage to hold onto her Louis Vuitton bags and continue to fly first class - but leads to a nervous breakdown and deeply-embedded psychological trauma.

With no other options she decides to move in with her lower-middle class sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), who lives in San Francisco. Ginger has put her plans to live with her fiancé Chili (Bobby Cannavale) aside briefly, offering to help Jasmine get her life back together however she can. Amidst a cocktail of drugs, Jasmine tries to shelter herself from her embarrassment and heal her wayward sense of reality by enrolling in a computer class in preparation for studying interior decorating online and taking on work as a dentist's receptionist.

Monday, September 16, 2013

New Releases (19/09/13)

Coming to cinemas this week are Planes, Turbo, One Direction: This is Us, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, I'm So Excited and in Melbourne, A Hijacking. It is clearly school holidays. Not an exciting week at all.

Planes - Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook) is a vertically-challenged crop duster plane who works at a cornfield and practices aerobatic maneuvers in his spare time, dreaming of becoming a racer. A Cars spinoff from Disney.

Turbo - 2013 American is an animated comedy produced by Dreamworks Animation. It is based on an original idea by David Soren, who directs the film. Turbo tells the story of an ordinary garden snail whose dream to become the fastest snail in the world comes true.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters - Percy Jackson, the son of Poseidon, continues his epic journey to fulfill his destiny as he teams with his demigod friends to retrieve the Golden Fleece, which has the power to save their home and training ground, Camp Half-Blood.

One Direction: This is Us - An intimate all-access look at life on the road for the global music phenomenon. Weaved with stunning live concert footage, this inspiring feature film tells the remarkable story of Niall, Zayn, Liam, Harry and Louis' meteoric rise to fame, from their humble hometown beginnings and competing on the X-Factor, to conquering the world and performing at London's famed O2 Arena. Hear it from the boys themselves and see through their own eyes what it's really like to be One Direction.

I'm So Excited - A technical failure has endangered the lives of the people on board Peninsula Flight 2549. The pilots are striving, along with their colleagues in the Control Center, to find a solution. The flight attendants and the chief steward are atypical, baroque characters who, in the face of danger, try to forget their own personal problems and devote themselves body and soul to the task of making the flight as enjoyable as possible for the passengers, while they wait for a solution. Life in the clouds is as complicated as it is at ground level, and for the same reasons, which could be summarized in two: sex and death.

A Hijacking - The cargo ship MV Rozen is heading for harbour when it is hijacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. Amongst the men on board are the ship's cook Mikkel (Pilou Asbæk) and the engineer Jan (Roland Møller), who along with the rest of the seamen are taken hostage in a cynical game of life and death. With the demand for a ransom of millions of dollars a psychological drama unfolds between the CEO of the shipping company (Søren Malling) and the pirates. 

Weekly Recommendation: Almodovar fans will likely get a kick out of I'm So Excited while Turbo looks to be the pick of he kiddie flicks. A Hijacking, which is disappointingly only screening in Melbourne, sounds fantastic, and I believe it is.

Friday, September 13, 2013

2013 Sydney Underground Film Festival Diary Day 4

Come Day 4 I was starting to get tired, and Sam (my partner) and I had lined up another busy day. After visiting the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) open day to inquire about a Screen Culture course we are interested in taking, we stocked up on supplies in preparation for our four film final day. On tap: A Band Called Death, which I had heard amazing things about, including Nick Brodies 5-star review here on Graffiti With Punctuation, Unlawful Killing, a controversial probe into the truth about the death of Princess Diana and one of the world’s first screenings in its uncut form, The Final Member, the second documentary about penises, this time focusing on a curator of a penis museum and his search for a human specimen, and The Canyons, the trashy LA-set tale of passion and revenge from writer Bret Easton Ellis and director Paul Schrader.

Review: A Band Called Death

In the early 1970’s, before The Ramones and punk there was Death, a Detroit-based group made up of three African American brothers – David, Bobby and Dannis Hackney – who started out by jamming in a tiny room on the second story of their family home. Already influenced by The Who, after attending an Alice Cooper concert they decided to alter their approach to music – to pure rock-and-roll. At this time, rock-and-roll was white folks music, but these guys were good enough to take off against the odds. In a line of successful recent music documentaries – the Academy Award-winning Searching For Sugar Man most obviously – A Band Called Death eclipses them, I feel. This extraordinary story has it all; natural artistic vision, devastating sacrifices and missed opportunities, unshakable loyalty to family and unexpected second chances. It is the kind of life-affirming tale you won’t want to shake.

Continue reading at Graffiti With Punctuation

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

2013 Sydney Underground Film Festival Diary Day 3

Coinciding with the Federal Election, on Day 3 of the Sydney Underground Film Festival I had Unhung Hero, Adjust Your Tracking: The Untold Story of the VHS Collector and Birdemic: Shock and Terror scheduled. After lining up and filling out my ballot paper, I had a productive meeting with fellow Graffiti With Punctuation writers and Blue Jasmine panelists Maria Lewis and Lisa Malouf in a Newtown park. From there Lisa and I made our way to the Factory Theatre for the first of two documentaries about penises, Unhung Hero.

REVIEW: Unhung Hero

Just when Patrick thought he could not be humiliated any more – his live on air marriage proposal was rejected – he learns that one of the reasons was because his partner thought his penis was too small. His insecurities about this trait, which already had been a point of ridicule in the past, reach an all-time peak and he decides to find some answers. Is he really that small, and if so, can this ‘affliction’ be changed?

Continue reading at Graffiti With Punctuation

Monday, September 9, 2013

New Releases (12/09/13)

In cinemas this week: Blue Jasmine, Mood Indigo, Riddick, R.I.P.D and The Smurfs 2.

I really enjoyed Blue Jasmine - Cate Blanchett is incredible - and the version of Mood Indigo that I watched at the Sydney Film Festival was wonderful. Unfortunately, the 130 minute cut is not making it to cinemas, rather a 94 minute one. Though I have heard some positive responses to Riddick, this is not a particularly exciting week and both R.I.P.D and The Smurfs 2 look positively awful.

Blue Jasmine - Woody Allen’s latest film Blue Jasmine is a tragic yet comedic masterpiece, amplified by a profound leading performance from Cate Blanchett. Jasmine (Blanchett) is thrust out of upper class existence when she splits from her felonious financier husband Hal (Alec Baldwin). In her free fall she moves out to San Francisco with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) to start life anew. Excerpt and linked review from Blake Howard at Graffiti With Punctuation.

Mood Indigo - a French tragic romance co-written and directed by Michel Gondry and starring Romain Duris and Audrey Tautou. An adaptation of Boris Vian's1947 novel Froth on the Daydream.

Riddick - The latest chapter of the groundbreaking saga that began with 2000's hit sci-fi film Pitch Black and 2004's The Chronicles of Riddick reunites writer/director David Twohy (The Fugitive) and star Vin Diesel. Diesel reprises his role as the antihero Riddick, a dangerous, escaped convict wanted by every bounty hunter in the known galaxy. The infamous Riddick has been left for dead on a sun-scorched planet that appears to be lifeless. Soon, however, he finds himself fighting for survival against alien predators more lethal than any human he's encountered. The only way off is for Riddick to activate an emergency beacon and alert mercenaries who rapidly descend to the planet in search of their bounty. The first ship to arrive carries a new breed of merc, more lethal and violent, while the second is captained by a man whose pursuit of Riddick is more personal.

R.I.P.D - Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds headline the 3D supernatural action-adventure R.I.P.D. as two cops dispatched by the otherworldly Rest In Peace Department to protect and serve the living from an increasingly destructive array of souls who refuse to move peacefully to the other side. Veteran sheriff Roy Pulsifer (Bridges) has spent his career with the legendary police force tracking monstrous spirits who are cleverly disguised as ordinary people. Once the wise-cracking Roy is assigned former rising-star detective Nick Walker (Reynolds) as his junior officer, the new partners have to turn grudging respect into top-notch teamwork. When they uncover a plot that could end life as we know it, two of R.I.P.D.'s finest must miraculously restore the cosmic balance...or watch the tunnel to the afterlife begin sending angry souls the very wrong way. 

Weekly Recommendation: Definitely the new Woody.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

2013 Sydney Underground Film Festival Diary Days 1 & 2

Thursday September 5

Fighting off a wave of tiredness brought on by the day job, I made my way to the Factory Theatre in Marrickville on Thursday for the opening night of the 2013 Sydney Underground Film Festival. This setting is perfect for a festival such as this. With a wealth of weird, wild indie features and controversial documentaries, I embraced this challenge and set out to take full advantage of the opportunity to catch some of the talk-of-the-town films that screened recently in Melbourne. Drinks and pizza were supplied and consumed and we made our way into Cinema 1, the largest, for Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Dance of Reality.

REVIEW: The Dance of Reality

As you watch a film like El Topo, one of the many questions you ask yourself is: what sort of person could have made this film? Well, in The Dance of Reality, the expectedly bonkers return of veteran Chilean auteur Alejandro Jodorowsky to the screen for the first time since 1990, we are privileged to an autobiographical insight (with many an imaginative, mythological twist) into his childhood and family. While the crazy genius has remained a mystery for some time, I wonder how much we really learn about him in this film, and how much has been augmented to keep up the grand illusion of his life. In the realm of Jodorowsky, responsible for some of the most searing cinematic images I have ever seen – his films are an example of gluttonous surrealism, indulgent but calculated – this is actually pretty accessible. Having said that, he doesn’t skimp on the strange stuff.

Continue reading this review, and check out reviews from Day 2 (Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction and Magic Magic) at Graffiti With Punctuation

Friday, September 6, 2013

Review: Drinking Buddies (Joe Swanberg, 2013)

Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson (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.

I believe that Drinking Buddies is the first film from the prolific writer/director, who has made cameo appearances in several films this year, to screen here in Australia. A big shout out to the team at the Possible Worlds Festival of Canadian and American Cinema for bringing the film to the 2013 program. I hope it receives a cinema release so more people can see this exceptional film. If you enjoyed Lynn Shelton’s Your Sister’s Sister, which stars Mark Duplass, Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt, I feel you will adore Drinking Buddies.

Continue reading at Graffiti With Punctuation

Trailer: Patrick (In Cinemas October 24)

A new trailer for the Australian psychological thriller, Patrick, a remake of the 1970's cult classic starring Charles Dance, Rachel Griffith, Sharni Vinson, has been released online.

The film will release in Australian cinemas nationally on 24 October 2013.

After the mysterious disappearance of a nurse at a remote private clinic, Kathy (Sharni Vinson) takes up the vacant role at the mysterious ‘Roget Clinic’, a private hospital for the clinically comatose in a remote seaside town. Kathy is placed under the imperious watch of Matron Cassidy (Rachel Griffiths) and Dr. Sebastian Roget (Charles Dance) a renegade neurologist operating at the fringes of medical society.

Despite her strong sense of foreboding and the dismal working conditions, Kathy is desperate to take up the post and overlooks the eeriness of the ward and the disturbing patients that reside there. She is soon assigned to care for a mysterious coma patient, who is simply known to staff as Patrick. Before long it becomes apparent that Patrick’s affections for Kathy turn into a deadly and bloody obsession.