Lion ✪✪✪✪½ Opened January 19
Lion is a partially Australian production, and that is something of which Australian cinema can be proud. After a particularly poor year in 2016 with Australian films out comes Lion, which was adapted from the Australian memoir of Saroo Brierley, entitled Long Way Home. In 2013 Screen Australia and Fulcrum Media Finance would co-finance, while See-Saw, Sunstar, and Aquarius Films produced the film. The Weinstein Company bought the worldwide distribution rights to the drama for $12 million in May 2014. In October 2014, Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman were cast in the film for the lead roles, and now finally it is here.
The film has already received multiple nominations and won several international awards. Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel were also nominated for Golden Globes for their performances in a drama.
If you think this looks like a good film, you would be right. Set partially in Tasmania Australia and also India, we are certainly drawn in by the terrible plight of poor, sweet five year old Saroo, lost in the big city of Calcutta, who ends up adopted and living in Australia, but still haunted years later by his separation from his true family.
This is an emotional journey and it could have degenerated into a miserable experience but the story is well crafted and becomes one of determination and ultimately uplifting result. There is still a lot of pain to witness on the screen, but this is a story worth watching and it is told well. You will shed quite a few tears at the end, so take tissues or have someone's shoulder handy. We were fortunate enough to have Saroo and his mother at our screening to introduce the film. They seem to be remarkable, passionate, intelligent people. What a privilege to witness their story.
Five-year-old Saroo gets lost on a train which takes him thousands of Kilometers across India, away from home and family. Saroo must learn to survive alone in Kolkata, before ultimately being adopted by an Australian couple. Twenty-five years later, armed with only a handful of memories, his unwavering determination, and a revolutionary technology known as Google Earth, he sets out to find his lost family and finally return to his first home. Stars Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara and David Wenham.
Lion makes History
LION has posted the 5th biggest opening weekend for an Australian film of all time and the biggest ever opening weekend for an independent Australian film.
With some cinemas still to report, the box office for the weekend of $4,155,636 puts LION behind only the studio films The Great Gatsby, Australia, Happy Feet and Mad Mad: Fury Road in the opening weekend record books. LION'S total box, including previews, now stands at $4,967,656.
LION is also taking the world by storm. The film has also opened at number 1 at the NZ box office, number 4 at the UK box office and in the US has already taken $14.5m before going into wide release, with strong releases also posted in Canada, Italy and other major territories
Moonlight ✪✪✪ Opened January 19
This film won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Drama. So it's been receiving a lot of buzz. Most likely it will receive an Oscar nod. I'm not sure why though. Maybe it's a response to the hullabaloo at last year's Academy Awards over Will Smith's exclusion from the nominations based on the color of his skin. That was hoo ha anyway. He was good in Concussion but certainly his performance didn't warrant a nomination. Besides, everyone knows the Oscars are political and sometimes rewards are for a body of work. He hasn't supplied a body of solid enough work to get an add in when his performance or film didn't warrant it. End of rant.
So I'm wondering if much ado has been made about Moonlight because of last year and that it is an African American story supposedly sharing a different perspective on life in the 'hood.' I didn't find it original, although it does have its moments of beautiful and interesting film-making. Boy grows up in the ghetto with drug addicted, prostitute mother and ends up struggling with bullying, which caused him to make poor choices and adapt to survive. I've seen that many times already and in a more entertaining story.
In any case, despite the direction's fly-on-the-wall feel (a little like Richard Linklater's amazing Boyhood or the very good Fruitvale Station), I just couldn't engage with the story or the characters, no matter how well they were portrayed. Purely a film for the cinephile and those who enjoy watching small, independent films. I learned nothing new and can't say it was an enjoyable experience.
The tender, heartbreaking story of a young man's struggle to find himself, told across three defining chapters in his life as he experiences the ecstasy, pain, and beauty of falling in love, while grappling with his own sexuality.
XXX Return of Xander Cage ✪✪✪½ Opened January 19
The first XXX film in 2002, with a much younger Vin Diesel, did reasonable box office, but unfortunately the follow up with Ice Cube in 2005 didn't make back it's budget. With the success of the Fast and Furious franchise, with it's over-the-top action car stunt sequences, I'm sure the studios were hunting around for another franchise to take over once cinema-goers tire of the cars, which at #8 in 2017 must be soon.
I went in to the preview expecting little. I didn't love the originals, and I'm totally the wrong demographic. These are squarely aimed at male, late-teens to twenty-somethings and the girlfriends and wives who are dragged along, and can get by on watching shirtless muscle men (I know that is sexist but that's the truth).
So I was surprised how much I enjoyed the crazy stunts and the tongue-in-cheek quips. This film is made to fit by Vin Diesel's swagger and charm. Without him, it would be a lot less and he's certainly found his niche. He'll never win an Oscar but he'll make stellar and bankable box office. Think the first Expendables but for young, hip kids, and cross that with the crazy stunts of Fast and Furious but with every vehicle and human ability available, and that is XXX. I call it dumb fun. You'll forget it in a week, but sometimes dumb fun is a great way to while away a couple of hours.
The third explosive chapter of the blockbuster franchise that redefined the spy thriller finds extreme athlete turned government operative Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) coming out of self-imposed exile and on a collision course with deadly alpha warrior Xiang and his team in a race to recover a sinister and seemingly unstoppable weapon known as Pandora's Box. Recruiting an all-new group of thrill-seeking cohorts, Xander finds himself enmeshed in a deadly conspiracy that points to collusion at the highest levels of world governments. Packed with the series' signature deadpan wit and bad-ass attitude, "xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE" will raise the bar on extreme action with some of the most mind-blowing stunts to ever be caught on film. Also stars Toni Collette, Donnie Yen (Rogue One)
Split ✪✪✪✪ Opened January 26
Blumhouse Studios, helmed by producer Jason Blum, are the makers of low to medium budget horror thriller flicks. In the past few years they have become hugely profitable, so much so that they are not so low budget anymore and can attract high calibre actors like James McAvoy, Joel Edgerton, and B-list actors and upcoming young stars that you will recognize but won't be able to name.
M. Night Shyamalan, burst into cultural history as director and writer of the 1999 Sixth Sense, the film with that amazing twist and incredible performance by child actor Haley Joel Osmont, alongside a suave and confident Bruce Willis. Then came another two solid films with Unbreakable and Signs, and we all thought here is our new favorite director. However Shyamalan went on to not just mediocracy, with his next decade or so of films, he seemed to grow progressively worse at creating a solid story, culminating in the awful and Will Smith self-indulgent sci-fi inept rubbish After Earth. Then came recently the much better and smaller production via Blumhouse Studios The Visit and now Split.
Well, welcome back M. Night. Split is, if nothing else, fascinating and intriguing to watch, anchored brilliantly by James McAvoy's incredible portrayal of a man's multiple personalities. Why hasn't he been nominated for any major awards? Oh, that's right, horror and sci-fi are not worthy genres, even though they are huge at the box office and in print.
While there are plenty of plot holes, it's far too freaky and fun to worry about them. This is still a B movie, but of the highest quality. I'm enjoying this resurgence of horror, with films like Unfriended, Paranormal series, Ouija, Gallows, 10 Cloverfied Lane, mostly thanks to Blumhouse Studios. They've got the formula right and they are laughing all the way to the bank. So who needs awards, right? I'm sure the sound of ka-ching is far sweeter than "And the winner is ... "
While the mental divisions of those with dissociative identity disorder have long fascinated and eluded science, it is believed that some can also manifest unique physical attributes for each personality, a cognitive and physiological prism within a single being. Though Kevin has evidenced 23 personalities to his trusted psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher, there remains one still submerged who is set to materialize and dominate all the others. Compelled to abduct three teenage girls led by the willful, observant Casey, Kevin reaches a war for survival among all of those contained within him - as well as everyone around him - as the walls between his compartments shatter apart.
Toni Erdmann ✪✪✪✪ Opens Lottery West Film Festival
German and Romanian with English subtitles
Monday January 30-Sun 5 Feb UWA Somerville
Tuesday February 7-Sun 12 ECU Joondalup Pines
This is one of those refreshingly different films you hear about that sounds too crazy to work. Yet it does. Toni Erdmann is funny, sweet, and a different take on the usual American family comedy dramas that are so predictable and cliched. Performances by the leads Sandra Hüller and Peter Simonischek are really something.
The film is long at 2 hours and 42 minutes, but you don't feel it too much. Yes, it could have been edited down but some of the long, lingering moments provide the gems in the film. ElleThis film says so much about relationships, judgement of others, and love. Well worth a viewing and a delightful addition to the festival season. There's talk of an Oscar nomination for best foreign language film. It was nominated for a Golden Globe but lost to provocative French film , which I didn't love. Warning there is full frontal nudity and provocative sexual behavior, but it's there for a reason. Go fall in love with Toni Erdmann.
A father, a daughter, and a set of false teeth.
A joyous, laugh-out-loud film so continually surprising that it has become the talk of film festivals from Cannes to Melbourne. ‘Toni Erdmann’ is the embarrassingly tactless buck-toothed alter-ego of Winfried Conradi, a recently retired schoolteacher with a penchant for ridiculous stunts. At a loose end and eager to reconnect with his serious and career-driven daughter Ines, Winfried decides to tag along on her important business trip in Bucharest and win her over with a relentless series of daft practical jokes. Full of rich detail and unexpected joy, Toni Erdmann is a constant, head-spinning delight.
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