Cinema

WONDER WHEEL : WHEN MOURNING BECOMES ECLECTIC

Light on laughs but colossal in its homage to American theatrical drama of the 2oth century, Woody Allen‘s WONDER WHEEL is a dark carnival attraction bathed in golden light by wondrous cinematographer, Vittorio Storaro.

Channelling Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, and funnelling his own septuagenarian sensibilities through the prism of nostalgia, WONDER WHEEL tells the story of four characters whose lives intertwine amid the hustle and bustle of the Coney Island amusement park in the 1950s.

Ginny (Kate Winslet), a melancholy, emotionally volatile former actress now working as a waitress in a clam house. The world was once her oyster, now she’s shackled to the shucked, and Humpty (Jim Belushi), her shambling and dishevelled carousel operator husband.

Ginny meets Mickey (Justin Timberlake), a handsome young lifeguard who dreams of becoming a playwright and embarks on an affair. Meanwhile, Carolina (Juno Temple), Humpty’s long-estranged daughter, appears and asks for sanctuary and succour from her dumb sucker of a gangster husband. Continue reading WONDER WHEEL : WHEN MOURNING BECOMES ECLECTIC

ST GEORGE OPEN AIR CINEMA: TIX OPEN DEC 11

 

Last summer, St.George OpenAir Cinema welcomed more than 78,000 guests to the world’s most beautiful cinema, sharing some wonderful films and sunsets against the extraordinary harbour backdrop.

St.George OpenAir Cinema today unveils an extraordinary line up of films for its 22nd season, taking place at Mrs Macquaries Point from 7 January to 17 February 2018.
Continue reading ST GEORGE OPEN AIR CINEMA: TIX OPEN DEC 11

THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS: A DICKENS OF A STORY

 

I can see the producer’s pitch huddled together at the Bar Humbug after too many eggnogs – or Martinis, olive or twist…
Let’s do yet another Scrooge story, this time an origin story, where we get the inception of the miserly monster fermented from the fevered brain of a writer’s blocked Charles Dickens.

A Christmas Carol and Scrooge and even Scrooged have been used thus far as titles in this merry go round roll over of remakes and reimaginings, so what the Dickens shall we call it??  I know, let’s call it something imaginative, innovative and festive, like THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS. Continue reading THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS: A DICKENS OF A STORY

The Royal Ballet in Alice in Wonderland

THE ROYAL BALLET IN ALICE IN WONDERLAND
NOVEMBER 2017

Bold, bright, colourful and exotic this is a wonderful revival by the Royal Ballet of Christopher Wheeldon’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND first seen in 2011. It is part of the Royal Opera House 2017/18 Live Cinema Season. Visually stunning it showcases some fabulous theatrical effects, wonderful dancing, and Wheeldon’s inspired, outstanding choreography. The work feels, at times, perhaps a little dominated by set and visual design values but it is a stunning visual feast and full of delightful whimsy.

Continue reading The Royal Ballet in Alice in Wonderland

SURVIVAL FAMILY: A SWEET FILM PLAYING AT JFF

What a sweet little movie SURVIVAL FAMILY (Sabaibaru famirî) is.  It played as part of the Japanese Film Festival in Sydney and has one more showing for the Melbourne season of the JFF.

Classified as a comedy/drama, it is much more than that.  This is a heart-warming, zero to hero, feel good film that not only tells the survival story of the Suzuki family as they tough it out post-apocalypse style but gives a real sense of the beauty of modern rural Japan.  Because it is quite the road movie as well. Continue reading SURVIVAL FAMILY: A SWEET FILM PLAYING AT JFF

GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN: MORE THAN JUST A PILE OF POOH

What could have been a pile of poo, GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN bears up rather well.

It begins on rather a sombre note during WWII and then flashbacks to the Somme and the mire, the mud, the maggots, a world far removed from the sunny, honey days of Pooh Bear.

GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN is a great story about success and its consequences, which is always an interesting subject.  A.A. Milne was phenomenally and unexpectedly successful, Continue reading GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN: MORE THAN JUST A PILE OF POOH

BETTER WATCH OUT: NATIVITY PLAY GONE NATIVE

Add a touch of Home Alone and a tincture of When A Stranger Calls and a pinch of Rope and Psycho you have the best genre picture made in Australia since I dunno when.

You better watch out for this film, to miss it will make you cry.  Better not pout, you’ll probably shout, certainly scream, I’m telling you why it is as fun as a scary clown.

If you’re making a list and checking it twice, trying to find out which film’s naughty and nice, then let me tell you, BETTER WATCH OUT is comin’ to town.

You won’t see it when you’re sleepin’, cause it’s gonna keep you starkly awake.

You’ll know it’s badly good Because it’s good for badness sake.

Oh! You better watch out, will make you sigh, I’m telling you why, it’s the best Christmas slay ride since I can’t remember when.

With little sharp shocks, and little twists and turns, rooty toot toots and homicidal home runs, BETTER WATCH OUT doesn’t let you down.

Australian starlet, Olivia DeJonge plays Ashley, regular baby sitter to twelve year old Luke, who harbours an unrequited crush on the comely carer. He has diabolic designs to be her stocking filler this Christmas. But it looks like his carnal plans may not go to, well, plan, because the house seems besieged by home invaders.

Rising Aussie star, Levi Miller jettisons his Jasper Jones gentle juvenile and embraces his darker side in his seriously sinister study of a silver spoon psycho.

Equally ascending Aussie star, Ed Oxenbould, similarly succeeds as his spirited side kick, Garrett, a willing accomplice but unwitting patsy to his fiendish friend.

Emerging Australian screen candy, Aleks Mikic and Dacre Montgomery round out the local contingent as would be wooers of the distressed damsel, making a macabre melange of a menage a trois.

There’s a couple of Yanks thrown into the mix – Patrick Warburton and Virginia Madsen play Luke’s lacklustre parents – but the picture belongs to the Aussies in performance and production values.

The writer/director, Chris Peckover may be Canadian by birth but has an Australian spirit and an American eye for Hollywood film making. Not content with mashing a slasher open slay, he pays due diligence to master craftsman of suspense, the most notable homage to Hitchcock.

Cinematographer is Australian Carl Robertson and he lights the film up like a killer Christmas tree, a conflagration of a rolling Yule tide log.

BETTER WATCH OUT is like a nativity play gone native, with the babysitter verging on Mary, an immaculate conception of girl power tested by palpable peril and the boy child more demonic than angelic, and a crib surrounded by three wise guys.

Better watch out  Bad Santa , BETTER WATCH OUT is after top slot in recent Christmas themed cult classics.

 

THE TEACHER

 

Condemnation comes much easier in THE TEACHER where a seemingly passionate and kind teacher uses her pupils to manipulate their parents for her own personal benefit, whether for material gain or even the promise of a romantic affair. Concerned about the school performance of their beloved children, most parents succumb to the pressure and provide the teacher with various services and gifts.

Three families, however, decide to take a stand and try to remedy the situation together with the school head teacher at a clandestine parent meeting.

Although set in the early 1980s, THE TEACHER tells a universal story that could happen any time and anywhere… at least as long as corruption, pettiness, and selfishness still rule the world.

“All adults and most children have experienced the feeling where something that might benefit you now might also be the wrong thing to do. Or the other way around: that following your conscience or moral code may be difficult or very disadvantageous. That’s why this story is understandable to everyone,” says director Jan Hřebejk. Continue reading THE TEACHER

British Museum Presents : Hokusai : After The Great Wave

 

This latest film as part of the British Museum Presents/strong> series is a fascinating look at the life and times of Katsushika Hokusai , who is often regarded as Japan’s greatest artist , in the exhibition that was in London at the British Museum May 25 – August 13 2017.

It concentrates specifically on the last 30 years of his long life in the great, bustling metropolis of Edo, modern Tokyo .We see both Hokusai’s prints of Edo and today’s Tokyo . Eagerly introduced by arts presenter Andrew Graham-Dixon, the film features interviews with artists David Hockney, Grayson Perry and Maggi Hambling, we learn about his life and influences and the various woodblock techniques used .

The documentary focuses especially on two works – THE GREAT WAVE and RED (PINK) MOUNT FUJI  It concentrates on works he produced in the last 30 years of his life from his 60’s (when he considered life began again) to his death at 90.

Hokusai produced hundreds of impressions of his most famous works in woodblock prints and some prints vary slightly because the woodblock suffers from wear and tear.

The film uses extremely detailed close-ups and pioneering 8K Ultra HD video technology, where Hokusai’s paintings and prints are examined by world experts who are at the forefront of digital art history.  Hokusai spent his life studying and celebrating our common humanity ( think of his drawings of various workers) as well as deeply exploring the natural and spiritual worlds, ( frogs, fish , waterfalls, dragons , ghosts , demons and gods etc – eg Shoki and Kohada Koheiji from One Hundred Ghost Tales, ) and how he used the famous volcano Mount Fuji as a protective presence and potential source of immortality ( there is his major work 36 Views of Mount Fuji of which The Great Wave is one) .

We also see his drawings of drunken poetry competitions, of kabuki stars, of courtesans and everyday life in Edo.

Hokusai’s life is set in context with references to ’The Floating World’. We learn how he knew much tragedy, was struck by lightning (which he considered changed his life and enabled him to become a great artist, answering his prayer) and lived for years in poverty, but never gave up his constant striving for perfection in his art. Hokusai in a way created modern art in Japan , is an artist who influenced Monet, Van Gogh , Seurat and other Impressionists, produced illustrated novels , is regarded as the father of manga ( comic books) and is the only painter with his own emoji.

Commissioned by the Dutch East India Company (known as the VOC) in 1822 to produce a series of scenes of everyday Japanese life, he produced a group of innovative paintings striking because of their inclusion of deep European style perspective and simultaneously abstraction as well as the use pf Prussian Blue pigment which made the work more attractive to foreign audiences.

The self-described ‘Old man mad about painting’ was known by at least thirty names during his lifetime and was renowned for his at times eccentric behaviour. He travelled and moved his studio and home regularly, finding inspiration for his unique style through close observations of nature and interactions with ordinary people. We also learn that he was a Nichiren Buddhist, and that there were profound religious reasons for this constant renewal.

Graham-Dixon is extremely enthusiastic in a David Attenborough way and we have interviews with major Hokusai experts and various artists who talk about his influence and also fascinatingly about his daughter Eijo and her struggles to be acknowledged as an artist in her own right.

Most of the screening is an examination of his life and times, placing the artist in context but we also get to see the exhibition – featuring lots of exquisitely hung long scrolls and so on from various galleries and museums around the world in a rare chance to see these works all in one place. We are privileged to see all these as we are reminded that because of the fragility and possibility of light damage mostly the works are kept rolled up away from light for years at a time.

A fascinating exploration of this great artist’s life and times but I would have liked to have seen more of his earlier works as well.
Running time allow 90 minutes no interval.

Hokusai : After the Great Wave screens at selected cinemas from 18 November 2017

http://www.sharmillfilms.com.au/allfilms/2017/7/20/british-museum-presents-hokusai

SONY SUMMER MOVIES IN CINEMAS SOON

THE STAR : Opens in cinemas November 30

This image and banner from STAR
© 2017 CTMG

In Sony Pictures Animation’s The Star, a small but brave donkey named Bo yearns for a life beyond his daily grind at the village mill. One day he finds the courage to break free, and finally goes on the adventure of his dreams. On his journey, he teams up with Ruth, a loveable sheep who has lost her flock and Dave, a dove with lofty aspirations. Along with three wisecracking camels and some eccentric stable animals, Bo and his new friends follow the Star and become accidental heroes in the greatest story ever told – the first Christmas.

Cast: Steven Yeun, Gina Rodriguez, Keegan-Michael Key, Kelly Clarkson, Aidy Bryant, Ving Rhames, Patricia Heaton, Kristin Chenoweth, Christopher Plummer with Tracy Morgan, Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey

JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE : Opens wide in cinemas December 26

JUMANJI ©2016 CTMG

In the brand new adventure Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, starring an all-star cast – Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan – four unlikely friends get sucked into the perilous world of Jumanji, and are transformed into avatars with unique skills. They’ll have to go on the most dangerous adventure of their lives, or they’ll be stuck in Jumanji forever…

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Bobby Cannavale, Rhys Darby

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME: Opens in select cinemas December 26 with Sneak previews December 23 & 24

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
©2016 CTMG

WON – Audience Award – Melbourne Int’l Film Festival

Nominated – Best Feature Film – Berlin Int’l Film Festival

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, the new film by Luca Guadagnino, is a sensual and transcendent tale of first love, based on the acclaimed novel by André Aciman.

It’s the summer of 1983 in the north of Italy, and Elio Perlman, a precocious 17- year-old young man, spends his days in his family’s 17th century villa transcribing and playing classical music, reading, and flirting with his friend Marzia.

Elio enjoys a close relationship with his father, an eminent professor specializing in Greco-Roman culture, and his mother Annella, a translator, who favour him with the fruits of high culture in a setting that overflows with natural delights. While Elio’s sophistication and intellectual gifts suggest he is already a fully-fledged adult, there is much that yet remains innocent and unformed about him, particularly about matters of the heart.

One day, Oliver, a 24 year-old American college graduate student working on his doctorate, arrives as the annual summer intern tasked with helping Elio’s father. Amid the sun-drenched splendour of the setting, Elio and Oliver discover the heady beauty of awakening desire over the course of a summer that will alter their lives forever.

Cast: Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel, Victoire Du Bois

For more information visit:

http://www.sonypicturespublicity.com.au

BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL

As a young boy I was besotted with the television show, The Samurai.  I was eager to follow Shintaro, Tombe the Mist, and the adventures of the Iga ninjas. It was an entrée into an exotic and esoteric world of swords, star knives and stunning acrobatics.

Small screen samurai was superseded by big screen samurai, with epics like Seven Samurai and Ran. The latest in fantastic samurai spectacle is BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL and it’s a stunner.

Takuya Kimura stars as Manji, a highly skilled samurai  cursed with immortality by a witch in the woods who introduces bloodworms into his system.

He thinks he’d be better off dead as he’s despatched his sister’s lover an act that has driven her out of her mind. To make matters worse, she is killed by bounty hunters after his head. But the universe wants him alive so he can wreak revenge on behalf of Rin, who reminds him of his deceased sibling. Continue reading BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL

CORIOLANUS: ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY

Photos by Helen Maybanks
© RSC

This updated production (it is set now, or perhaps in a possible near future) as directed by Andrew Jackson emphasizes the politics and bloody battles. It is beautifully spoken and a play of contrasts: this is a production where patricians wear dinner jackets, the plebeians wear hoodies and the tribunes are as sleek as TV presenters. Political speeches are contrasted with whirling violent battle scenes .
Jackson’s version of CORIOLANUS opens with a forklift truck shifting bags of corn away from the ordinary denizens of Rome. It is staged with some thrilling lighting effects and some bloody battles and some blistering , tense wordy political scenes in the Forum.

Stark grey metallic grille shutters rise and fall throughout the whole play as scene dividers. They are coolly neutral and suggest a life completely different to that of Coriolanus’. To indicate Rome and the forum there is a statue of a rearing horse, Volumnia’s palace is graced by a refined statue of Venus. The public marketplace is indicated by steel seating and podiums that rise from the floor. Interior scenes have curtains to soften the lines.

To summarize the complicated plot : Caius Martius forces open the gates of the city and joins the leader of the Roman army, Cominius, to defeat Tullus Aufidius, commander of the Volscian army. In recognition of his great deeds, Caius Martius is renamed “Coriolanus” . Yet the common people turn against him for his arrogant attitude, and he ends up seeking refuge in exile with his old foe Tullus Aufidius, who was previously defeated, but not killed.Together they plan to attack Rome, but at the last minute Volumnia makes Coriolanus repent his treachery, and a peace treaty is speedily worked out between Rome and the Volscians. Tullus Aufidius kills Coriolanus for his duplicity.

Sope Dirisu as Coriolanus is distinctly ‘other’ from the outset.He is portrayed as a valiant ,worthy warrior General of the army leading to many victories , but proud and arrogant , unsympathetic as well as being a real Mummy’s Boy .He regards himself as above the common people , who he despises and is awkward when running for office ( uncomfortably wearing the cloak of humility and white cap) as consul or indeed with any dealings with ordinary men and women.

Volumnia , Coriolanus’ mother is played very strongly by Haydn Gwynne . Tough and manipulative , fiercely intelligent she is elegant , proud and aristocratic, and advises her son carefully as she cannot rule in her own right .The famous pleading for Rome scene is intense and gripping, tightly performed.

Coriolanus’ wife Virgilia , tall cool and patrician , overly dominated and intimidated by Volumnia , was elegantly played by Hannah Morrish.

Menenius, genial, complacent and urbanely avuncular, is terrifically played by Paul Jesson , seemingly unaware that there is festering revolt beneath the surface mask of everyday life in Rome but revealing himself to be very brave in a crisis and a sharp negotiator.
Aufudius leader of the Volscians is brilliantly portrayed by James Corrigan . His scheming Aufidius, shows that it is possible to combine the art of a master swordsman and gracious formal diplomacy. When Coriolanus appears at his house in Antium he is stunned and disbelieving then thrilled . Is he in fact double crossing Coriolanus ?There Is also much hinting at a possible ‘bromance’ developing between Aufidius and Coriolanus and the murder of Coriolanus is quite shocking .

Cominius , who we first meet as commander of the Roman army is excellently portrayed by Charles Aitken.The two tribunes Brutus and Sicinius here portrayed by women Jackie Morrison and Martina Laird are strongly presented. The first half in particular seethes with tension and rage in the forum scenes.

A cold ,sharp brutal and violent production excitingly staged with a terrific cast .

Running time – allow 3 & ½ hours including interval. Includes short behind the scenes ‘making of ‘ documentaries and interviews during interval.

Screenings of the Royal Shakespeare’s Coriolanus are at selected cinemas 18-19 November 2017 and at Riverside Parramatta 25-26 November 2017

https://riversideparramatta.com.au/show/coriolanus-3/

THE JEWISH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL IS ON NOW: Giveway double passes

Images from My Mother’s Lost Children and Rebel in the Rye

From Australian documentaries The Last Goldfish and My Mother’s Lost Childrento intimate Yiddish drama Menashefascinating biopic Rebel in the Rye, and award-winning hits In Between and Keep the Changethe JEWISH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL is back for another year of outstanding Jewish cinema from all over the world.

With 65 films from 26 countries, the Festival builds on a 28 year long history of bringing the best of Jewish cinema to Australia, presenting 38 features and 23 documentaries to audiences in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Canberra. The Festival will also screen films by the inaugural recipients of the JIFF Short Film FundDream House and Still Alive.

“I am thrilled with the incredible creativity and diverse storytelling of our films in the line-up this year. With the first commercial release Yiddish language film in over 50 years, and fantastic events including a live jazz night and a collaboration with Sydney Writer’s Festival, we’re extremely proud to present our 2017 program,” said Jewish International Film Festival Artistic Director, Eddie Tamir.

Highlights of the 2017 program include: moving drama In Between, following three Palestinian women living in Tel Aviv balancing traditional and modern culture, and winner of the Best Feature at Tribeca 2017, Keep the Change, a charming romantic comedy about the blossoming relationship between two people at a support group.

Not to be missed is Bombshell: the Hedy Lamarr Story, narrated by Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds) and featuring interviews with Mel Brooks (The Producers) and Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show), the eye-opening showbiz documentary shines a light on Hollywood queen Hedy Lamarr.

The Festival is also a great chance to catch poignant screwball rom-com The Wedding Plan, and Ben-Gurion, Epiloguea rare, recently unearthed 1968 interview with Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, with director Yariv Mozer taking part in an audience Q&A post-screening.

Showcasing the best of local Jewish filmmaking, the Festival will screen The Last Goldfish, an autobiographical documentary by Sydney’s Su Goldfish as she searches for her lost family, from Australia to Trinidad and WWII Germany. Rich with archival images, the film echoes through all those touched by forced migration. Goldfish will also engage in audience Q&As after screenings.

The Festival will also screen two films from Melbourne filmmaker Danny Ben-Moshe: My Mother’s Lost Childrenan uplifting documentary following Ben-Moshe’s own family, when two children, stolen from them, reappear after 40 years; and Shalom Bollywood: the Untold Story of Indian Cinemaa fascinating look into the overlooked influence of Jewish women in Bollywood – the first dance, kiss, talkie and colour film. Ben-Moshe will take part in an audience Q&A for both films.

Closing the Festival will be The Rebel in the Rye, starring Kevin Spacey (American Beauty) and Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: Days of Future Past). A fascinating biopic on the infamously-reclusive author JD Salinger, the film covers everything from Salinger’s Jewish upbringing and his WWII service, to the completion of his iconic novel The Catcher in the Rye.

JIFF has generously offered 3 double passes to a film of your choice.  To enter email editor.sydneyartsguide@gmail.com using JIFF COMP as the subject by 5pm Friday 17th November.  Only winners will be notified.

For more information about the JEWISH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL which is now playing at  Event Cinemas, Bondi Junction and the  Hayden Orpheum, Cremorne  visit : 

http://www.jiff.com.au/

https://www.facebook.com/JewishIFF

lucky

Sam Shepard said of Harry Dean Stanton, “His face is the story.”
Shepard sure as shit got that right.  Just point the camera and shoot and the Harry Dean visage gives a narrative.

Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja‘s script for LUCKY utilises that face effectively, affectingly and affectionately in the spiritual journey of a 90-year-old atheist known as Lucky and the quirky characters that inhabit his off the map desert town.

Having out lived and out smoked all of his contemporaries, the fiercely independent Lucky finds himself at the precipice of life, thrust into a journey of self exploration, leading towards that which is so often unattainable: enlightenment.

Acclaimed character actor John Carroll Lynch’s directorial debut, LUCKY is at once a love letter to the life and career of Harry Dean Stanton as well as a meditation on mortality, loneliness, spirituality, and human connection.

Lucky is a man of ritual, arising at the same time every morning, doing his callisthenics while simultaneously enjoying a cigarette.
Recreation at home is doing cross word puzzles and watching game shows.  He breakfasts at the same diner every day, gets his smokes from the same grocery store, and walks to the same bar, Elaine’s, to drink bloody Marys.

Much of the action of LUCKY takes place in the bar where he interacts with a variety of regular barflys, the bartender and the publican.  One of his best buddies, Howard, is fretting over the disappearance of his ancient tortoise, Roosevelt, a pet he has had since time immemorial. David Lynch’s performance as the bereft reptile fancier is a beautiful rendition of loss and hope.

David Lynch‘s appearance, other than supplying a virtuoso performance, conjures comparisons that LUCKY has with Lynch’s directorial work, especially the often overlooked and underrated The Straight Story, which, incidentally, featured Harry Dean Stanton.

LUCKY also has a Twin Peaks moment when a fellow barfly played by James Darren accompanies him to a lane way outside Elaine’s where a cosmic light show plies them with mystical wonder.

LUCKY works as a quasi screen biography of Harry Dean Stanton – the desert town location and Mexican music – he gets to sing and play harmonica- are redolent of Paris Texas, Tom Skerrit‘s turn as a fellow veteran recalls their teaming in Alien, and so it goes.

LUCKY is full of zinger lines made all the zingier played deadpan – “One thing worse than awkward silence is small talk”.
The one line from LUCKY that sums up the picture best is “I’m a nothing with everything, isn’t that something?”

We should feel so lucky that we had actors like Harry Dean Stanton gracing our screens making indelible contributions to classic films – The Godfather Part II, Alien, Paris Texas, Repo Man, Pretty in Pink, The Missouri Breaks, the list goes on.

You should be so lucky to ferret out this fine, fine life affirming film.
Funnier than a comedy, laden with special affects rather than special effects, LUCKY lives up to its title and makes one feel lucky to have seen it.

 

THE NUTCRACKER SCREENS THIS CHRISTMAS

This image: Alexander Campbell as The Nutcracker, Francesca Hayward as Clara in The Nutcracker © ROH, 2013 Photographed by Tristram Kenton
Top Image: Meaghan Grace Hinkis as Clara in The Nutcracker, The Royal Ballet © ROH Tristram Kenton, 2013. Image by AKA © ROH 2016

Event Cinemas and Village Cinemas in partnership with Trafalgar Releasing will exclusively screen The Royal Opera House THE NUTCRACKER  this December at nineteen cinemas across Australia as part of the Royal Opera House 2017/18 Live Cinema Season.

Featuring filmed performances from the world-renowned Royal Opera House in London, the program presents the very best opera and ballet from the iconic venue, captured in jaw-dropping detail for Australian audiences to enjoy as if they were there themselves.

Danced to Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score, the beautiful classical ballet will take audiences for a wonderful Christmas adventure alongside Clara and her enchanted Nutcracker doll.

 A firm family favourite with Tchaikovsky’s mesmerizing score, a Christmas tree that magically grows, a battle between toy soldiers and an Army of Mice, and the famous role of the Sugar Plum Fairy danced by Royal Ballet Principal Sarah Lamb with her Prince, Principal dancer Steven McRae, this event presented by Darcey Bussell is not to be missed.           Continue reading THE NUTCRACKER SCREENS THIS CHRISTMAS

JUNGLE : ANOTHER OUTBACK NIGHTMARE TALE FROM GREG MCLEAN

What is it with Greg McLean?! Has he had a bad experience with backpackers and now wants them to suffer vicariously through his cinematic sadism.

What McLean did for Outback psychos in Wolf Creek, he duplicates for troppo tour guides in South American wilderness in JUNGLE.

Starring Daniel Radcliffe as young Israeli Yossi Ghinsberg, author of the international best-selling 1996 memoir Back from Tuichi: The Harrowing Life-And-Death Story of Survival in the Amazon Rainforest, JUNGLE is a jingle jangle adventure into the depths of self preservation.

What begins as the realisation of a young man’s dream soon turns into a harrowing psychological test of instinctive forbearance and intestinal fortitude.

When 22-year-old Ghinsberg leaves behind a safe future and family in order to chase an improbable fantasy, events take a dark turn. He reaches the enigmatic Lake Titicaca in Peru where he and two new fellow adventurers, Kevin Gale and Marcus Stamm, meet the darkly charismatic Karl Ruchprecter , and follow him on an increasingly nightmarish journey with meagre supplies into the jungle. Continue reading JUNGLE : ANOTHER OUTBACK NIGHTMARE TALE FROM GREG MCLEAN

NT LIVE ‘SALOME’: A CLASSIC TALE GETS A RADICAL REWORKING

This is a radical reworking of the Biblical story of Salome as directed by Yaël Farber which features some very strong performances and some fantastic visual theatrical effects.

Farber’s aim is to retell the story of Salome but NOT the story of Salomé as a femme fatale imagined by the historian Flavius Josephus and later interpreters like as Oscar Wilde, Aubrey Beardsley and Richard Strauss. Salome becomes a revolutionary, downtrodden woman who is a voice for the oppressed, the silent, the persecuted, the refugee.

So Farber divides the character in two. One, simply called Nameless, (a wonderful strong performance by Olwen Fouere) is an older, ghostly one might say, embodiment of voiceless women down the ages who mostly acts as narrator, ragged and barefoot.

The younger Salomé (Isabella Nefar) lives in Roman-occupied Judea, is the trapped victim of her voracious stepfather, Herod, and becomes the instrument of major change. If she demands the death of the prophet Iokanaan (John the Baptist), it is so that his martyrdom will stir revolt against the oppressive Roman occupation.

Salome is attacked by crowds , tortured in prison and, JUST baptised, required to dance for the Roman leaders of the occupation

We see how Salome is infatuated with the mysterious outlawed fanatical prophet Iokanaan who invites her to bathe, naked, in water, a respite from the harsh sand that pours down at other points in the play as played by wild eyed, bearded Arabic speaking Ramzi Choukair, who mostly wears only a loincloth. Continue reading NT LIVE ‘SALOME’: A CLASSIC TALE GETS A RADICAL REWORKING

ALL ABOARD KENNETH BRANAGH’S ‘ORIENT EXPRESS’

There is homicide, for sure, in MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, but the hirsute splendour of the consulting detective could necessitate the renaming of the caper to Moustache on the Orient Express.

Taking his cue from his character’s creator, Kenneth Brannagh gathered all written descriptions of Poirot’s moustaches by Agatha Christie, using the extensive resources of the Agatha Christie Estate. After which began the nine-month process of research and development for the requisite face furniture that would live up to what Miss Christie described as “the most magnificent moustaches in all England”.

Walrus handlebar may be a fitting description of this top lip, cheeks and chin concoction.
Apparently, the design of Poirot’s moustache was a key component in finding the character. Branagh says: “It took many months to design the moustache – Carol Hemming [Hair and Make-Up Designer] was behind it, and she came up with a brilliant reference. We began with this line of Agatha Christie’s where she referred to Poirot as having the most magnificent moustaches in England. So “moustaches” was a clue. We know she meant it in the old sense, but Carol’s idea was that there should almost be this double-moustache effect. It had to be, because Christie kept using the words “majestic, immense”. It was almost like a mask. It was Poirot’s superpower. It kept people at a distance. It needed to be in itself, structurally and luxuriously pleasing in appearance, and it needed to make a big impression.”

It certainly makes a big impression, luxurious and luxuriant, a veritable Medusa of a mo. There’s so much mo, so much so, that the Academy may have to create a new category – Best Performance by a Moustache- which he will win by a whisker.

Costume Designer Alexandra Byrne’s impeccable eye for this precise look dramatically enhanced Poirot’s presence on screen. “The first discussion was about the moustache, so that started with Ken and Carol Hemming and helps to define the character,” says Byrne. “Then I joined in, with Ken being very keen that Poirot had a military background. We did a lot of research on what that meant, to be a Belgian with a specific military background. Continue reading ALL ABOARD KENNETH BRANAGH’S ‘ORIENT EXPRESS’

Moonlight Cinema Program Out Soon

What wouldn’t it be Summer in Sydney without?  For me and mine …MOONLIGHT CINEMA  under the stars in our glorious Centennial Park.

I once watched BLADE RUNNER there with a storm brewing, lightning in the distance, rumbles far off … special effects by God.  Truly magical.  Actually there has been something magical every time we have gone.

Romantic nights with Gold Class: a premium viewing location with bean beds and waiters.  Fun with the kids taking a home-made picnic basket and board games for the little ones.  Or grabbing some mates after work with nothing to bring because there is hot food and cold drinks available on site.

And the films?  To be announced but a quote on the promo website has me intrigued.  “This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”  Are we thinking black and white classic with Ingrid Bergman’s moist eyes and Dooley Wilson as Sam on the piano?

Just remember this, we will let you know as soon as the program is announced.

MOONLIGHT CINEMA is at Belvedere Amphitheatre in Centennial Park, Dec 1 – Apr 1  

https://www.moonlight.com.au/sydney/location/

BORG vs McENROE : Personal and surprisingly intimate

BORG vs McENROE . This is a highly anticipated film.  Not least because it has bad boy all over it.  Who hasn’t said “comeonnnn” when frustrated?  But what we get is a thoughtful film, low on theatrics and high on character.

The title sequence sets the scene.  Looking from above, as we never could in 1980, the court grass, blockily delineated by quicklime lines, is worn and abused from green to brown.  The arena is drawn as the voiceover exhorts us to settle down: “Quiet please” repeated.  The court announcer tells us what we already know, it is the Wimbledon Men’s final.  Ostensibly this will be crafty ice wolf #1 Björn Borg seeking his 5th title over the instinctive street canine #2 John McEnroe, hungry for his first Wimbledon. “The baseline player vs the net rusher”.

What follows is a gripping 5 setter of a film.  Borg is introduced as a boy, an out of place aggressive in a ‘gentleman’s sport’ who becomes a precipice tempted star.  It is his story initially, gently evoked and an insight into the man who is treated as a rock star and pursued by screaming girls in a Monaco street.  We see McEnroe’s backstory next as he is impassive when confronted with his bad behaviour in past matches until an interview brings out the passion.  In close-up and in individual histories both men appear introspective and volcanic with emotion.

And therein lies the strength of this film.  These men are champions and as the film progresses away from the headlines into the real events it is clear that they are more similar than we would expect.  No-one becomes champion without craft and instinct and no champion escapes the burden of fame.  Director Janus Metz sees Borg and McEnroe “ultimately playing against themselves and their own demons.”

This match, the 1980 Wimbledon Final is legend for length and stamina and takes up the last 25 minutes of the film but we also see enough of the lead up matches and the men’s lifestyle around the event.  Each player watches the other play and the crowd and media bring different pressures to bear. The Connors/McEnroe game really sets the stage.

We also see glimpses of their childhood (including Borg’s real-life son, Leo Borg , playing his father, 9-13 years). Each of these scenes gives an insight into how the men will approach the finals. When we arrive sat the main game the focus is purely on the tennis.

Sverrir Gudnason, uncannily like him, plays Borg with deliberation.  The doubt-plagued, superstitious, pattern repeater before he steps on a court is well contrasted with the public’s perception of him as a clinical and flexible player.  His Borg is a broody, focused Scandinavian.

Shia LaBeouf is his match and LeBeouf’s moments which are not reproduced footage are especially moving.  The way he speaks to his mother, and his locker room confrontation with Peter Fleming (played by Australian Scott Arthur) after the quarter finals.  LaBeouf brings vulnerability to arrogance and defensiveness to drive.

The film is, as the title makes clear, about Borg and McEnroe, and there only two other main characters.  As Borg’s manager Lennart Bergelin veteran Stellan Skarsgård brings the required gravitas  to the difficult role and manages to bring truth and power to his very simplistic exhortative dialogue.  Tough love notwithstanding.

Bergelin, from long experience knew how to handle Borg which is more than his fiancé Tuva Novotny (Mariana Simionescu) seems capable of.  She appears at a loss as to how to make Borg more in her life, in their life.  Simionescu has a stoicism in the part without being cold or dispassionate and we can empathise with her eggshell approach to being around the volatility of this moment in time.

The somewhat muted palette, not far removed from old colour footage, helps place the film in its time. But this is a film focused on faces.  Studio 54 might be alluded to and there is long hair in the crowd and, of course, there are sweatbands but it is not a period piece. The pre-match hour or so of the film is surprisingly intimate.

The meticulously accurate match has all the big wide shots one would expect.  There are cuts and throws to the crowd and supporters and scoreboards and there is slow motion and truncating of time.  But the tension is built through the characters and their responses and the voice over which keeps the narrative running.  The impelling strings of the soundtrack exert their influence too.

Overall BORG vs McENROE is not a sensationalist ripped from the headlines drama but a satisfying peek into the personal as athletic side of a truly great tennis match and well worth staying in the cinema for the real-life images of the end credits.

THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER

“It’s a metaphor.” says one of the characters in THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER, writer/director/producer Yorgos Lanthimos, follow up film to the critical and commercial success, The Lobster. Lanthimos and his regular collaborator, Efthimis Filippou, co-wrote the project and THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER is certainly a metaphor.

What’s it a metaphor for is part of the fun and fascination of the film, and though this sacred deer runs out of hart, it has for the most part, a lot of beguiling bang for your buck.

Colin Farrell plays Steven, an eminent cardiothoracic surgeon married to Anna, (Nicole Kidman), a respected ophthalmologist. They are well off and live a happy and healthy family life with their two children, Kim, 14 (Raffey Cassidy) and Bob, 12 (Sunny Suljic). Steven has formed a friendship with Martin (Barry Keoghan), a fatherless 16 year-old boy whom he has taken under his wing. Continue reading THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER

Screen Australia Releases 2016/17 Drama Report

Three Summers – Photograph by David Dare Parker
Source: Screen Australia

Screen Australia’s 27th annual DRAMA REPORT is not just for number crunchers.  It has major implications for what we see and hear on Australian Screens.  And the news is good.

The $1.3 billion spent on screen drama production in 2016/7 is an all-time high.  Of that $667 million was spent on home-grown projects and foreign project spending here was also up, showing as $610 million.

The report covers Australian and foreign feature films, TV drama and online programs and includes PDV-only (post, digital and visual effects). In addition, for the first time, this report includes online drama programs longer than 30 minutes.  These are reported separately, with 22 titles made for platforms such as Stan, ABC iview and YouTube.

Graeme Mason, CEO of Screen Australia said: “Crossing the $1 billion expenditure threshold is an incredible milestone for the Australian screen industry and has not happened by accident. There is a whole ecosystem of support measures that keep our industry firing, including direct government funding, tax incentives and Australian content quotas.”

We all know though that there have been some big budget blockbusters worked on here, both full shoots and PDV only.  The Australian dollar remained below USD$0.80 assisting companies to remain competitive and the Location Offset and PDV Offset, as well as other state and federal government incentives, attracted foreign productions.  These included Thor: Ragnarok, Aquaman and Pacific Rim: Uprising and the PVD on Spider-Man: Homecoming.

But local production of drama features rose to 41 titles from 32 films in the previous year. The report cites  the foreign-backed Peter Rabbit as a driver but also strong domestic and co-production ventures including Sweet Country, Swinging Safari, Cargo and Mary Magdalene (UK).

When we look at drama on the small screen, the growth continues.  Last year had record highs for Australian produced television and this year raises the bar again.  With 46 titles and 457 hours of content.  The majority of which were half-hour comedy formats such as The Family Law (S2), Here Come the Habibs! (S2) and Get Krack!n. Mini-series production remained strong too and included series returns of Cleverman, The Secret Daughter and Wentworth, as well as adaptations such as Wake in Fright and Picnic at Hanging Rock.

Locally produced children’s television drama took a knock though with a sharp decline in Australian expenditure in 16/17 ($48 million), significantly below the five-year average of $60 million.

For those interested in state rivalry New South Wales accounted for the largest share of total expenditure in Australia (36%), however Queensland was not far behind (33%) with the significant rise driven by several major Hollywood blockbusters shooting in the state.

The Screen Australia’s DRAMA REPORT 2016/2017  is available online at     https://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/fact-finders/reports-and-key-issues/reports-and-discussion-papers/drama-report-2016-17

BRIGSBY BEAR : A BEAUTIFUL TALE

Huggable. This could be the most huggable film of the year.

BRIGSBY BEAR is arms around torso, head and shoulders above a mere embrace.

BRIGSBY BEAR is a true original, creating comfort from discomfort, cuddles out of curdles, humour out of humanness.

At the beginning of BRIGSBY BEAR we meet man child, James. To say James’ intensely protective parents have kept their son a bit sheltered is a ginormous understatement.
The family dwelling is a survivalists bunker, and the only way James gets to see anything of the outside world within the strict environs is through a sealed observation points, accessed by an elaborate series of secure procedures.

Apocalyptic holocaust must have happened and Mum, Dad, and James are hermetically sealed in their shelter.

A bright, sensitive young adult, James has grown up with a goofy television kids show called Brigsby Bear, a kind of cross between Humphrey B. and Doctor Who.

Suddenly, James’ rarefied life becomes even more peculiar as a dramatic turn of events render his past a figment with a future founded on a naive nostalgia.

Close bosom buddy of Hal Ashby’s Being There, BRIGSBY BEAR is an inventively offbeat and profoundly uplifting love letter to the redemptive power of creativity, the brainchild of lead actor, Kyle Mooney, whose characterisation of James is pitch perfect.

An added delight to the fabric of this fine film is the casting and performance of Mark Hamill as James’ father, Ted. His presence alone casts the picture into the stratosphere of the pop culture zeitgeist, and a strong, sensitive performance catapults the film further past the orbit of a mere cult cameo.

Greg Kinnear is endearing as a cop with curtailed acting ambition and Clare Danes shines as a shrink.

BRIGSBY BEAR back ends the year with a tale of beauty where all around there are tales of brutality.

Embrace Brigsby and cuddle up to a true original.

 

INGRID GOES WEST : THE WORLD OF SOCIAL MEDIA TAKES A HIT

As fatuous as a Facebook page and the intellectual and emotional weight of an Instagram, the addiction and mental decay attributed to the servility of cyberspace is an insidious problem even with so-called normal people.

Saddled to a sufferer of mental illness, it becomes a singularly sinister cyber stalking issue, the subject of Matt Spicer’s feature film debut, INGRID GOES WEST.

Aubrey Plaza plays Ingrid Thorburn, a thorn in the side, pain in the arse, unhinged social media stalker with a history of confusing “likes” for meaningful relationships.

Taylor Sloane, played by the always interesting Elizabeth Olsen, is an Instagram-famous “influencer” whose perfectly curated, boho-chic lifestyle becomes Ingrid’s latest obsession. When Ingrid moves to LA and manages to insinuate herself into the social media star’s life, their relationship quickly goes from #BFF to #WTF.

Spicer sails perilously close to the coast of audience alienation by pretty much populating his picture with unlikable, utterly irritating people. The sole survivor of salvaging any self esteem is Dan Pinto, Ingrid’s landlord and manipulated fuck buddy.

Spicer and co-writer, David Branson Smith, message is clear – only when you display the real you to the world is when the real world will respond to you.

Winner of the Waldo Salt Screen-writing Award at Sundance, INGRID GOES WEST is a savage, seriously squirmy, sometimes hilarious dark comedy that satirises the modern world of social media and proves that being #perfect isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

RED CARPET : THOR RAGNORAK

Two of the main protagonists in this third installment of the Marble Comics are Thor himself and the Hulk. Their earthly counterparts Chris Hemsworth and Mark Ruffalo strode the Red Carpet at the Entertainment Quarter last Sunday.

It was a very glitzy Sydney premiere with gold painted models and statues of Thor and the Hulk. Also in attendance was the New Zealand Director Taika Waititi and producers Brad Winderbaum and Chelsea Winstanley. Among the local celebrities who made an appearance was ex Home and Away star Johnny Ruffo, fresh from a life saving operation for brain cancer, who attended along with his girlfriend, Tahnee Sims.

A major difference in this film is that, at his insistence, Chris Hemsworth refused to wear the long blonde hair wig. Also with the inclusion of Taika Waititi, the film has more comedic touches. Filmed on the Gold Coast, Chris Hemsworth declared that he wished he could film more of his films in Australia.

THOR RAGNAROK opens in cinemas on the 26th October.

Featured image – Taika Waititi and Chelsea Winstanley. All images By Ben Apfelbaum.