Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Campaign

Director: Jay Roach

Starring: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, John Lithgo, Dan Akroyd, Dylan McDermott

Long-term US congressman and rake, Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) has outstayed his worth according to a pair of ultra-wealthy CEOs (John Lithgow and Dan Akroyd) who plot to put up a rival candidate and gain influence over their North Carolina district. They choose the naïve Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), director of the local Tourism Center, who appears the unlikeliest possible choice but, with the help of a sinister campaign manager (Dylan McDermott) and his family's political connections. Despite all the odds he soon becomes a contender who gives the charismatic Cam plenty to worry about. As the Election Day approaches the rivals are locked in a dead heat so time for dirty tricks which provides the bulk of slap stick comedy in this mildly satirical farce. Sure to be a success in the election year (US), and a perfect vehicle for Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis but not the hilarious movie you might expect. (I am not a fan of Will Ferrell).

Holy Motors

Director: Leos Carax

Starring: Dennis Levant, Kylie Minogue, Eva Mendes, Edith Scob, Michel Piccoli

A beautifully shot fantasy about the amorphous Monsieur Oscar (Denis Levant), a shadowy figure who journeys from one alter ego to another. A captain of industry, an assassin, beggar, monster and family man this human enigma effortless shifts from identity to identity as we witness a series of encounters with Levant playing a different person (or creature) in each. The movie lends itself to various interpretations and the audience is left to ponder on the true meaning of the Iliad. A film tucked with surprise and visual spectacle which demonstrates the magic of cinema and the thrill of performance. Look out for Kylie Minogue who comes on two-thirds of the way through and sings a sad song to a former lover (Levant again) before throwing herself off the top of a Paris hotel. Enough said. Sure to be an art house classic.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Skyfall

Director: Sam Mendes Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Berenice Lim Marlohe, Ben Whishaw, Albert Finney, Rory Kinnear, Ola Rapace

Daniel Craig completes his hat trick in the new Bond extravaganza Skyfall. A dramatically gripping move (arguably the best to date), there is all the usual outlandish action scenes, glittering settings and larger-than-life characters. However the difference is our super hero is faced with the realities of modern life and battles the world of shadowy terrorists and cyber warfare. Spooks on the big screen. All change at London Head Quarters after Bond has been reported missing in action. M (Dame Judy Dench) is now under pressure from intelligence and security committee chairman Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) and the organization is thrown into further chaos when the new London headquarters of MI6 explodes in a terrorist attack. Systematically undercover British agents are beginning killed and just as all seems lost Bond like Lazarus, reappears but first he has to win the confidence of M before setting out to combat his new nemesis and former agent, Silva (Javier Bardem). Along the globetrotting way our intrepid wise cracking hero meets Severine, (Berenice Lim Marlohe), a new Q (Ben Whishaw) and the gorgeous Eve (Naomie Harris). This is an accomplished action movie which allows the Bond character more psychological complexity and stronger emotional beats. In the tradition of the old Bond movies there is a mouth watering introduction and a moving and highly satisfying ending which tees up the ball for the next adventure. Fantastic cinematography complemented with a brilliant sound track. Bond is back.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bully

Director: Lee Hirsch

Bully is a social documentary which examines bullying with the focus on the receivers of badgering. A series of cases is reported including Alex, 12, who is punched and ridiculed without remorse, while school administrators tell his parents that "boys will be boys." Kelby, 16, is an athlete who comes out as gay, only to face being ostracized and run down by a car. Ja'Meya, 14, is so traumatized that she takes a gun onto her school bus to scare off bullies and faces 22 felony charges, and there is more. This is confronting stuff and should be a compulsive part of high school curriculum. Man’s inhumanity to man is a sad indictment on modern society but all too true in schools around the world as witnessed in this informed documentary.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Sapphires

Director: Wayne Blair

Starring: Chris O’Dowd, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens, Miranda Tapsell, Tory Kittles, Judith Lucy.

Musical comedy loosely adapted from the true story of four women of the Yorta Yorta clan who sang together in the late 60s and 70s; and based on the stage play The Sapphires. Set in the late 1960s Australia the narrative follows four Aboriginal women, looking to follow their dreams and become music stars. The girls enter a talent show in a local rundown pub owned by a racist owner (Judith Lucy) who has no intention of giving the small prize to a group of Aboriginals. Enter, Dave (Chris O’Dowd), a would be music manage, impressed with their performance sees the potential to make them soul singers. Despite his scruffy appearance and lack of experience Julie (Jessica Mauboy), Gail (Deborah Mailman), Kay (Shari Sebbens) and Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell) are quick on the uptake. The group signs up to boost morale and perform in front of the troops in Vietnam. The transition is a test to the girls and their backgrounds but eventually they become The (fabulous) Sapphires. Similar to The Commitments, but no less enjoyable this is a feel good movie with some super music and good performances from the cast.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Jackpot

Director: Magnus Marten

Starring: Kyrre Hellum, Henrik Mestad, Arthur Berning, Mads Ousdal, Andreas Cappelen

Black comedy come thriller set on the Norwegian-Swedish border and based on a book by Jo Nesbø (Headhunters). Four dimwitted crooks turn on one another after a lucrative win on the football pools. Told in flashbacks Oscar (Kyrre Hellum), the lone survivor of a shoot out in a Swedish roadhouse/strip-cub, explains to detective Solor (Henrik Mestad) how he emerged unscathed, from beneath a fat, dead stripper. A gruesome tale of greed with dismemberment and disposal the order of the day. Casually violent and corpse-littered this may appeal to fans of Scandanavian crime stories but it certainly not the best example brought to celluloid.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

In Darkness

Director: Agnieszka Holland

Starring: Robert Wieckiewicz, Benno Furmann, Agnieszka Grochowska, Maria Schrader, Herbert Knaup, Kinga Preis, Krzysztof Skonieczny, Julia Kijowska, Marcin Bosak, Jerzy Walczak, Michal Zurawski.

Based on the book "In the Sewers of Lvov" by Robert Marshall this is a harrowing Holocaust survival story set Nazi Concentration Camp. Hiding in the sewers of Nazi-occupied Lvov, in eastern Poland, a group of Jews rely on a local thief, Leopold Socha (Robert Wieckiewicz), to feed and protect them. The former sewer inspector-turned-scavenger wartime profiteer risks his life outwitting the Nazi captors for profit. Along with his accomplice Szczepek (Krzysztof Skonieczny), they break into abandoned buildings, and loot whatever valuables they can find. The group confined to live in the claustrophobic sewers consist of con men, cheats and tight-fisted business owners who constantly fight and argue among themselves. Rather long but there is a tense finale in which a sudden rainstorm turns the sewers into a death trap and all else is revealed. "In Darkness" is a powerful film about those who refuse to yield, either to certain death or to complicity with evil.