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Hacksaw Ridge ✪✪✪✪ Opened November 3
No matter your opinion of Mel Gibson and his off-screen issues and behavior there is one thing you cannot deny, the guy is one hell of a filmmaker as proven in his latest directional release Hacksaw Ridge. I put this film up there with another classic war film Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan. I fear, however, that the Mel haters might put an end to that like they did with the very good 2012 Get the Gringo starring the actor, and this year's Blood Father.
Andrew Garfield playing Desmond Doss gives an Oscar nominee performance backed up by a solid cast led by Vince Vaughn, Hugo Weaving, Sam Worthington and Teresa Palmer. If there seems to be a few Australians in the cast that is because it was filmed entirely in Australia in 2015 under a deal with the Australian Government. Filming in Bringelly NSW and Fox Studios, production required the clearing of over 500 hectares of land including deforesting 80 trees, which producers replanted and rehabilitated after filming ceased. Apparently the film brought in 720 jobs and US$19 million to regional and rural New South Wales.
As you are watching this film don't be surprised if you wonder where it is going and where are these gut-wrenching, violent scenes the reviewers have reported. They are coming in a finale that will leave you breathless. You will also wonder how this story of a real-life hero could possibly be true and how much embellishment have the scriptwriters written in. Don't worry, all will be revealed during the title credits. Incredible, breath-taking and probably the best battle sequences you have ever seen, and possibly surpassing that still amazing Spielberg opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan. Another must see in the cinema.
HACKSAW RIDGE is the extraordinary true story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) who, in Okinawa at the bloodiest battle of WWII, saved 75 men without carrying a gun.
The Light Between Oceans ✪✪✪✪ Opened November 3
This is the film of the 2012 novel of the same name by West Australian author M. L. Stedman. I've since learned how beloved this book actually is and I was told after the screening by several folk who had read the novel that this is a very accurate and wonderful adaptation. If you've seen the trailer you know what you are in for and my one negative comment is that said trailer pretty much gives you half to two thirds of the film. Still the story is beautifully realized and it is great to see such a good production filmed in Tasmania, Australia and New Zealand.
Alicia Vikander is truly the Meryl Streep of this era. Everything she does on screen is mesmerizing. I did call this about four years ago after seeing her in the Danish film A Royal Affair starring Mads Mikkelsen who also starred recently in Doctor Strange. Probably one for the ladies. However, the guys at my screening also enjoyed and commented on the stunning cinematography, but they are film reviewers so are far more equal opportunity with the chick flicks. Sorry that's a tad sexist, more female orientated films. I loved it. Another thought-provoking film about very human choices that might damn you.
In the years following World War I, Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender), a young veteran still numb from his years in combat, takes a job as lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, a remote island off the coast of Western Australia. As the island's sole inhabitant, he finds comfort in the monotony of the chores and the solitude of his surroundings. When he meets the daughter of the school's headmaster, Isabel Graysmark (Alicia Vikander), in the local town of Partageuse on the mainland, Tom is immediately captivated by her beauty, wit and passion, and they are soon married and living on the island. As their love flourishes, he begins to feel again, their happiness marred only by their inability to start a family, so when a rowboat with a dead man and infant girl mysteriously washes ashore, Isabel believes their prayers may have finally been answered. As a man of principle, Tom is torn between reporting the lost child and pleasing the woman he loves, and against his better judgment he agrees to let Isabel raise the child as their own, making a choice with devastating consequences.
Arrival ✪✪✪✪ Opened November 10
Think Close Encounters of the Third Kind meets Lost in Translation meets Contact and even a small indie sci-fi film you may have missed Monsters, along with any invasion movie where the USA are the ones who are most likely to connect with the aliens.
The plot sounds like a blockbuster in the making but don't be fooled. This is a story about humanity, language and the dangers of not taking your time to understand the other guy before you take action. Some might find this a touch slow and far too esoteric. The palettes and unusual visual direction and small details though, build an experience not often found in films of this genre. Amy Adams is superb. When the camera is on her, you are inside her mind. The true star though, is the vision of staying true to an idea despite the possible detraction from the box office for not over dramatizing events. There's something particularly immersive about this film and that is due to French Canadian Denis Villeneuve's skill as a director (Prisoners, Sicario, Enemy, Incedies). This film is layered with thought-provoking ideas, moody color sci-fi fans looking for something realistic and understated but that will still blow your mind. Calling all Your film has arrived. Don't miss it on the big screen. One of those ones you will want to see again.
When mysterious spacecraft touch down across the globe, an elite team--lead by expert linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams)--are brought together to investigate. As mankind teeters on the verge of global war, Banks and the team race against time for answers--and to find them, she will take a chance that could threaten her life, and quite possibly humanity. Also stars: Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stulbarg
Nocturnal Animals ✪✪✪ Opened November 10
Amy Adams fans rejoice. She's in another film this week. Nocturnal Animals I didn't like so much. While it has merit and Tom Ford handles the dark noir feel of the film superbly, I found the first half confusing, with the internal story within a story and flashbacks that are not well defined.
Again this is one of those films where the trailer does not accurately portray the film. This is not about something Amy Adams character did, which is covered up as you are led to believe. It's simply a film about relationships and choices and their affect on lives. In the middle of the story there is a kidnapping that, while it is quite devastating to watch, doesn't fit so well with the high concept. Interesting film for cinephiles, but I would call this a good quality B mystery noir.
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2016 Venice International Film Festival. From writer/director Tom Ford comes a haunting romantic thriller of shocking intimacy and gripping tension that explores the thin lines between love and cruelty, and revenge and redemption. Academy Award nominees Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal star as a divorced couple discovering dark truths about each other and themselves in NOCTURNAL ANIMALS. Also stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Isla Fisher.
I, Daniel Blake ✪✪✪✪ Opens November 17
A man who is on sick leave while he recovers from a heart attack, who learns the difficulty of navigating the English (and probably most first world countries') welfare system, with all its bureaucracy laid bare, does not sound like a riveting film.
Don't be fooled. This is like the 2014 Oscar winning film Whiplash; a simple human challenge studied in glorious and perceptive detail. You will love this film and cry hopelessly at the end.
Dave Johns', who plays Daniel Blake, only previous acting role has been as a comedian. That is surprising considering how well he portrays a man who sees clearly the absurdity in rules for rules sake. Not surprising then is the humor and poignancy he infuses into Daniel Blake. Hayley Squires, another newcomer, who plays the single mum also caught up in the system, and who Daniel befriends, is also quite incredible despite being a newcomer.
This is a quality independent film from Ken Loach who mostly chooses social commentary stories to tell and does a darn good job of it.
Daniel Blake (59) has worked as a joiner most of his life in Newcastle. Now, for the first time ever, he needs help from the State. He crosses paths with a single mother Katie and her two young children, Daisy and Dylan. Katie's only chance to escape a one-roomed homeless hostel in London has been to accept a flat in a city she doesn't know, some 300 miles away. Daniel and Katie find themselves in no-man's land, caught on the barbed wire of welfare bureaucracy as played out against the rhetoric of 'striver and skiver' in modern day Britain.
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