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- New release movie reviews - May 17
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New release move reviews - August 24
HOPE SPRINGS **** (100 minutes) M
Despite the highly deceptive trailer, Hope Springs is no toss-away rom-com for the elderly but a grounded romantic drama about seniors, sex and the mortality of a long-standing marriage. With Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones clocking in with some of the finest work of their long careers, it's a superbly performed, subdued and meticulously directed film aimed squarely at those who prefer something human over the latest blockbuster. Kay (Streep) and Arnold (Jones) are two elderly empty nesters 31 years into a marriage that has settled into a deep, dull rut of routine. While the curmudgeonly Arnold is content to dissolve into his armchair, Kay fears their marriage might actually be dead and so books a week-long therapy session in a picturesque Maine town with expert counsellor Dr Feld (Steve Carell, again showing how good he can be playing it straight). As they talk and argue their way through decades of baggage, issues about intimacy, indolence, impotence, romance and sex bubble to the surface, igniting both conflict and attempts to improve their comatose love life. Director David Frankel (don't miss his wonderful bird-watching comedy The Big Year on DVD) worked with Streep in The Devil Wears Prada (2006), but here elicits something far more soulful and touching. And Streep, now 63, deserves major kudos for how she is using the latter phase of her career to prove an important point: as with The Iron Lady, It's Complicated, Mamma Mia and Julie & Julia, Hope Springs is yet another example of her headlining a mid-to-low budget film intended for adults that has made big money. Streep seems adamant to demonstrate how films not driven by testosterone or visual effects have a vital and lucrative place at the multiplex. Doing that proves she really is great.
TOTAL RECALL *** (118 minutes) M
In the hyper-industrialised, totally corporatised world of the near future, lowly robotics factory worker Doug Quade (Colin Farrell) feels the need to spice up his life, something he finds entirely unexciting despite being married to Lori (Kate Beckinsale), a wonderful woman of limitless patience who also happens to look exactly like Kate Beckinsale. During the implanting of adventure memories to help him "escape", something goes awry and Quade finds himself hooking up with resistance fighter Melina (Jessica Biel) and embroiled in a twisty-turny plot to overthrow the villainous Vilos Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston from Breaking Bad). Essentially a non-stop chase film crammed full of frenetically cut shootouts, impressively staged foot chases and dizzying aerial pursuits, the film is a slick, high-tech, fabulously designed popcorn pusher. Yet the one big thing missing from the lark is the one thing that made the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger action film, directed by Paul Verhoeven (Robocop; Showgirls), so enjoyable - fun. For some reason, director Len Wiseman - an action specialist who guided Beckinsale across two Underworld films as well as helming Die Hard 4.0 - decides to play the whole thing with a straight face. As Quade and Melina fly and run about dodging bullets, fireballs and angry Robocop-like robots, there's not one decent joke or laugh, even though the story involves giant elevator shafts that link Britain with Australia by running through the Earth's core! That major quibble aside, the film (based on the short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale by Philip K Dick) speeds along at a breathless clip, looks great - the detailed rendering of the mega-city is more vivid than we usually get in films of this scale - and features some nifty design features, such as phones that are implanted directly into the palm of your hand. Surely a sign of things to come.
SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD *** (101 minutes) M
With three weeks to go before a giant asteroid kills all life on earth, sad sack insurance agent Dodge (Steve Carrel) and his dotty neighbour Penny (Keira Knightly) escape the rising tide of anarchy in their town and head off on a road trip. Dodge wants to reconnect with his family and with the one true love of his life - who he recently discovered was not his wife (she promptly ran off the second she heard the end-of-the-world news on the radio). Penny wants to get back to Britain to see her family one final time. After getting all the inevitable gags out of the way in the first 15 minutes, writer/director Lorene Scafaria (she wrote 2008's lovely Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist) moves her apocalyptic rom-com into new territory for such a formula-driven genre. She certainly deserves kudos for avoiding the obvious and delivering a truly memorable finale.
BULLY **1/2 (99 minutes) M
There is plenty of virtue in focusing on the victims of schoolyard bullying, and the case studies presented by director Lee Hirsch in this rally-rousing American documentary are full of tragedy and anger. For all its good intentions, however, the film does not fight hard enough to rise above the emotions of the issue to explore real solutions. Apart from demonstrating how officials appear to be in denial about the extent of the problem, the film essentially throws it back on the filmgoer to do something. A good film, it has ignited much debate but could have leaned harder on those responsible. Bully certainly could have done with less emphasis on despair and more Michael Moore-type door-kicking into the offices of indolent pen pushers and platitude-spouting politicians.
HOLY MOTORS *** (116 minutes) MA
One of the reasons we go to the movies is to sample cinema that is strange, unconventional and with little interest in being understood by normal people. French director Leos Carax succeeds admirably with his trippy nocturnal road trip in which a diminutive man (Denis Lavant) is driven around Paris in a limo to partake in a strictly scheduled series of random activities. These include performing in a motion capture special effects sequence, getting friendly with Kylie Minogue and getting even more friendly with Eva Mendez. As an oddball art film that openly invites you to wonder what it's all about, the film lacks ambition or any real vision, but it's certainly never boring.
BARRYMORE ***1/2 (84 minutes)
Reprising his Tony-winning stage role as John Barrymore, veteran actor Christopher Plummer inhabits the alcoholic acting legend to a T in this superbly directed film version of the William Luce play. Revisiting the play over a decade after its initial run, Erik Canuel, who directed and adapted the work, employs a host of cinematic techniques to enhance Plummer's spell-binding turn as a crotchety has-been who, in 1942, attempts to revive his career by playing Richard III. Most of his time is spent reminiscing, rehearsing, flubbing Shakespeare's lines and bickering with Frank (John Plumpis), his hapless off-stage prompt. Screens at the Nova this Saturday and Sunday @ 1pm; Wednesday August 29 and Thursday August 30 @ 6.45pm.